Kiyoshi Higashi, 23, took the stand in his own defense this morning in his first-degree murder trial.
Higashi is the first of four defendants to go to trial in the April 2010 shooting death of Edgewood resident Jim Sanders, who was killed in his home by people responding to a Craigslist post advertising some jewelry.
Higashi alternated between contrition and defiance during his testimony, saying he was at the home the night Sanders died but did not, as prosecutors have alleged, shoot the 43-year-old man.
“Obviously I had some part in it,” Higashi said said of the robbery. “But I wasn’t in the room when Mr. Sanders was shot.”
Higashi also testified under questioning from defense attorney Michael Jordan that the image of him portrayed by prosecutors, witnesses and the media is wrong.
He pointed out that family and friends who love him have attended his trial and continue to support him.
“They don’t love me because I’m a monster,” he said.
Higashi also said he felt bad about what happened to Sanders, pointing out he cried during his statement to detectives. Prosecutors contend Higashi has shown an egregious lack of remorse and may ask for a stiffer sentence as a result.
“I’ve made some mistakes. I regret those things,” he testified. “I’m sorry for what we done. Obviously, it wasn’t right.”
Deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett then started her cross-examination, which quickly turned Higashi testy. He frequently tried to provoke Robnett by asking her if she’d heard his previous testimony and equivocating with some of his answers.
He said the robbery wasn’t “any set person’s idea” and that he was not friends with the other c0-defendants.
“A friend would tell you not to do something like this,” Higashi said.
Robnett asked if one of his co-defendants – Amanda Knight – took plastic ties into the house to bind Sanders and his wife.
“You would have to ask her that,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not Amanda.”
Robnett asked him if he knew who shot Sanders.
“No, I don’t know. Personally, no,” Higashi said.
She asked if another of his co-defendants, Clabon Berniard, hit Sanders’ wife, Charlene Sanders, over the head during the robbery.
“Yeah. I told him to stop,” he testified.
Then Robnett asked if he knew who hit Sanders’ son, James Sanders Jr., 14, over the head with a pistol during a confrontation in the house.
Higashi said he knew.
Robnett asked for a name.
“That’s your job to find out,” he replied.
“I’m doing my job. Answer the question,” said Robnett, who then asked Superior Court Judge Rosanne Buckner to direct Higashi to answer.
The judge did so.
“Willy Foo Foo,” he said.
Robnett asked him if he thought that was funny.
“At some point later in my life I probably will,” Higashi replied.
The trial then broke for lunch.
Higashi is expected back on the stand this afternoon for further cross-examination.