OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A prosecutor and a defense attorney presented jurors Tuesday with starkly different versions of the stabbing death of 18-year-old Newark Memorial High School football star Osana Futi in Fremont last April.
In his opening statement in the trial of 19-year-old Abraham Hade, of Fremont, prosecutor Elgin Lowe said the “undeniable truth” is that Hade murdered Futi. He said Hade’s blood was found on the knife that was used to kill Futi and other evidence also implicates Hade.
But defense lawyer Tom Knutsen said Hade “did not stab Osana Futi; he is innocent of these charges and he is wrongly accused.”
Knutsen told jurors he believes Futi was killed by a friend of Hade’s who was only 14 at the time of the murder and told Fremont police that he was the one who stabbed Futi.
However, Lowe said he believes that the teenage boy, who will testify as a prosecution witness, was only trying to take the rap for Futi’s murder because he is a juvenile who would face a lesser sentence in juvenile court than Hade faces in adult court.
Lowe alleged that Hade and the juvenile both belong to a branch of the Norteno gang called Fremont Mexican Territory, and that in the gang culture, it is expected that juveniles will take the blame for crimes because the consequences they face are less severe than those faced by adults.
Knutsen said Hade doesn’t belong to a gang but admitted that he may know some gang members.
Although Lowe and Knutsen disagree about who killed Futi, who was set to graduate from high school last June, they both said his death stemmed from a long-running feud between Newark Memorial football players and Norteno gang members.
They said the feud started when Futi’s close friend and football teammate, 17-year-old Justice Afoa, was fatally stabbed near the intersection of Cedar Boulevard and Birch Street in Newark around 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2010.
That crime was still unsolved when Futi was stabbed outside a house party near Yellowstone Park and Hyde Park drives after 11 p.m. on April 28, 2012. He died a few hours later.
In January, three reputed gang members were charged with murder in connection with Afoa’s death, and a fourth suspect was charged with assaulting Afoa and a friend in an earlier incident.
Newark police said Afoa was killed in an act of revenge because he had beaten up a 30-year-old Norteno gang member and the gang member felt embarrassed about it because he was much older than Afoa.
Lowe told jurors that “there were huge issues between Newark football players and the Norteno gang” and said Futi was stabbed because he had gotten into fights with several of the gang’s members last April 28 and had threatened them.
“He challenged the entire gang, and the gang felt it had a duty to respond,” Lowe said.
Knutsen alleged that Futi had been involved in “a number of physical confrontations” with people he believed were Norteno members after Afoa was killed because “he wanted retribution and revenge.”
The defense attorney also said that shortly before Futi—who was 6 feet tall and weighed nearly 300 pounds—was stabbed, he had savagely beaten several reputed Norteno members who were much smaller than he was.
“Mr. Futi wasn’t taking on anyone his size,” Knutsen said.
Knutsen said the teen he alleges killed Futi “most likely acted in self-defense” after Futi attacked him.
The day after Futi’s death, Newark Unified School District Superintendent Dave Marken described him as “very gregarious and outgoing.”
Marken said Futi, who played halfback and linebacker, planned to play football at a community college in the fall.
Marken said Futi had some anger management issues as a result of Afoa’s stabbing death and had been expelled, but that he had dealt with those issues, was reinstated in school, “was taking care of business” and was set to graduate with his classmates.
School officials said Futi was named the Mission Valley Athletic League’s defensive player of the year in 2011.
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