Samuel Woodward details why he killed Blaze Bernstein while testifying in his murder trial

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Thursday, June 20, 2024
OC hate-crime trial: Samuel Woodward details killing Blaze Bernstein
On his fourth day on the witness stand in the murder trial against him, 26-year-old Samuel Woodward detailed why he killed Blaze Bernstein in 2018.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- On his fourth day on the witness stand in the murder trial against him, 26-year-old Samuel Woodward detailed why he killed Blaze Bernstein on Jan. 2, 2018.

Woodward said he picked up his former Orange County School of the Arts classmate at his home and he directed them to Borrego Park in Lake Forest.

Woodward testified smoking strong marijuana and laying on a sleeping bag.

He closed his eyes, "tuned out," and felt really peaceful.

Woodward said he felt Bernstein get close, but thought the 19-year-old was getting something from a bag.

He stated feeling something on his inner thigh but thinking he had urinated himself because of the drugs.

Embarrassed, Woodward said he continued to lay there not to bring attention to himself.

Woodward testified going into a state of terror when he snapped his eyes open, seeing his pants unbuckled with one of Bernstein's hands touching him and the other hand holding a phone.

Woodward said Bernstein kept repeating, "I got you. I got you."

Woodward described yelling at the top of his lungs.

He feared Bernstein had recorded him and sent text messages.

Woodward said he reached for the phone but Bernstein pushed back.

Woodward became enraged and reached for a knife he had used to open a container.

On the stand Woodward said, "From that point I literally just reached for the phone any way that I could. I couldn't stop going at the phone. I couldn't see what was going on. At that point the phone wasn't even in the way anymore. Nothing was in the way anymore. I just kept driving and driving and driving the knife down."

Woodward remembered Bernstein clawing and biting him as he stabbed him 28 times.

Bernstein's mother ran out of the court during the graphic description of her son's murder as other members of their family wiped away tears.

He said Bernstein was dead when he moved his body across the park.

Woodward used his own hands to bury him in a shallow grave.

Woodward denied killing Bernstein because of his affiliation to Attomwaffen Division, a far-right neo-Nazi group.

Defense attorney Ken Morrison ended his questioning by asking Woodward if he planned to kill him that night or if he hated him because he was gay or Jewish.

To which Woodward uttered, "Not at all."

Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker started cross-examining Woodward on the stand on Thursday before the jury was sent home for the weekend.

They claim the murder was a hate crime because Bernstein was gay.

Tensions between Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger and the attorneys continued to grow outside the presence of the jury.

In the morning, Menninger ruled discussions from Tuesday related to assaults Woodward has experienced within the Orange County Jail could not continue.

Morrison said his client's mental health has been impacted by these assaults.

Walker objected to Woodward's testimony on these assaults on Tuesday because it was not relevant to this case.

Walker said it would require her to cross examine Woodward on the context of the assaults which would add time to the trial.

Judge Menninger said both sides have been giving the court information at the last minute and nothing to this issue had been submitted in writing.

She told the attorneys to stop wasting time.

"This has gotten out of hand," Menninger said.

Morrison objected to the ruling, but the judge would not allow them to continue the discussion.

Menninger walked out of the courtroom.

A stunned Morrison spoke out loud and stated, "I will not be steamrolled. I will walk out of this trial."

Menninger appears to be growing more and more impatient or frustrated with the pace of this trial.

She's stated several times the defense's line of questioning was taking too long.

When the jury was brought in, Morrison stated he did not know how to proceed.

The judge ordered him to ask his next question.

If convicted Woodward faces life in prison.