Blaze Bernstein murder: Samuel Woodward testifies in defense during hate crime trial

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The man charged with the alleged hate-crime fatal stabbing of a former gay classmate in Foothill Ranch testified Thursday he was high on marijuana when he realized the victim had unbuckled the defendant’s pants and was touching him before the attack.

Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 26, is charged with the Jan. 3, 2018, killing of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein.

Testifying in his own defense, Woodward said that after the pair had reconnected and were talking on Snapchat, Woodward suggested getting together, so Bernstein sent him his address where Woodward picked him up. The two then went to nearby Borrego Park, where Woodward opened a sleeping bag stuffed with snacks, drinks and marijuana, he testified.

Woodward said he took a “couple of puffs” of a heady strain of marijuana that relaxed the nervous defendant.

“I continued to tune in and out” under the influence, Woodward said.

SUGGESTED: Young man arrested in Blaze Bernstein murder case

He said the marijuana helped distract him from “how ridiculous I must have looked,” explaining that others had viewed him as behaving outrageously while under the influence.

Woodward, who has been diagnosed as autistic, testified earlier about his difficulty in developing romantic relationships or friendships, and about his difficulty communicating with others. The long, shaggy-haired and bearded defendant often looked down as he testified, prompting his attorney, Ken Morrison of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office to remind him to get the hair out of his face or to look up.

Woodward testified Thursday that he felt something on his leg, making him think he perhaps had urinated on himself as he had done in the past while under the influence of the strong strain of marijuana.

Woodward felt himself “nodding off” as the feeling persisted, but then, “I snapped open and I literally looked right next to myself. I saw a hand on my crotch with my pants unbuckled.”

SUGGESTED: Samuel Woodward’s attorney says he did kill Blaze Bernstein, but not for the reasons prosecutors allege

He added, “I looked right up and (Bernstein) had his phone in his hand. … His hand was in the innermost area of my thigh.”

Woodward, who had been staring downward, was cajoled by Morrison to make eye contact with the defense attorney. He admitted it was “very difficult” to talk about Bernstein touching his private parts.

“Sam, please look at me,” Morrison said. “Do you believe Blaze Bernstein deserved to die that night?”

“No,” Woodward said.

The defendant said he “came undone” as he realized Bernstein was touching him as they were lying on the ground at the park.

“I went into a state of … terror,” he said. “I remember just asking, `What are you doing? … I just remember asking again and again what are you doing?”

Bernstein said “something like calm down … or it’s not a big deal,” Woodward testified. “All I remember is him telling me something that sounded like `It’s already done,’ and `I got you, I got you.”‘

Woodward will continue testifying Thursday afternoon.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.