Robert Davies, 49, of North Wildwood, is defending himself in his murder trial. On Thursday he cross-examined Mario Chavez, 26, of Atlantic City. Chavez admitted in court Wednesday that he punched Davies outside Maynard's Cafe in Margate in the early hours of Aug. 12, 2007. That punch, both sides agree, set into motion a series of events that led to the killing of Lavern Paul Ritch, 37, a British tourist who stepped in as a good Samaritan. Thursday, January, 27, 2011 ( Press of Atlantic City / Danny Drake) Danny Drake

MAYS LANDING — Mario Chavez admitted he was wrong when he punched Robert Davies outside a Margate bar in 2007, but said the accused murderer had angered him with a degrading remark about his Mexican heritage.

Davies cross-examined his admitted attacker Thursday, as the North Wildwood man continued to act as his own lawyer at his murder trial.

Davies, 49, is accused of killing Lavern Paul Ritch, 37, a British tourist who apparently was coming to Davies’ aid during a chase at about 2:15 a.m. Aug. 12, 2007.

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Davies says he acted in self-defense when he plunged what he describes as a pen knife into Ritch’s chest, believing the British man was part of a group Davies claims was trying to attack him. The knife was never recovered.

“Do you think the sequence of events that led to (Ritch’s) death wouldn’t have occurred if you hadn’t punched me?” Davies asked Chavez.

Chavez agreed that it did spark the fatal act.

“But I also think it wouldn’t have occurred if you wouldn’t have said those nasty words to me in the bathroom as well,” Chavez added.

Chavez claims he was offended when Davies asked him about his ethnicity in the bathroom at Maynard’s Café, and then suggested the Mexican man didn’t belong in this country.

“The way you talked to me, you kinda like hurt me,” Chavez said, adding that as an illegal immigrant, he felt Davies was right. “You got me good.”

Chavez said he left the bathroom upset, and wanted to leave the bar. He told the cook and another friend what happened, and called a cab, he testified.

He was looking for the cab when he went outside and saw one. But the driver said he would have to come back for the group.

But Davies played surveillance video Thursday that he said proves Chavez did not talk to a cab driver. Davies, who was thrown out of the bar, claimed Chavez had come out to confront the man who had insulted him.

Chavez insisted it was a friend who saw “the man in the green hat,” which is how the group described Davies.

The witness admitted he was angry when he saw Davies, and reacted by running up and punching him.

“You initiated a blindside assault on an innocent American citizen,” Davies said, which was followed by an objection from Assistant Prosecutor Bill Merz.

Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury told the jury to disregard the comment.

Chavez told Davies anger “doesn’t give me the right to punch you. It doesn’t give you the right to take (Ritch’s) life away also.”

Throughout his cross-examination, Davies would sometimes refer to himself in the first person, and sometimes as “the man in the green hat.” But he never said “me” when talking about the man who allegedly made prejudicial remarks in the men’s room.

During his opening statement Wednesday, Davies indicated that although he was the man Chavez punched and that fatally stabbed Ritch, he was not the man in the bathroom.

Chavez appeared to have no doubts.

But he insisted there was no plan among the four friends with him to attack Davies, as the defendant claimed in his opening statement. 

“I was angry at you, but it was just me,” Chavez said. “It wasn’t my friends. When you started chasing me, who else ran? Just me.

“If we wanted to jump you, we probably would have done it in the bar. I don’t know.”

Davies claims he was in fear for his life when he turned and stabbed Ritch, who appeared to be trying to help.

Merz, however, charged in his opening Wednesday that Ritch was not stabbed in self-defense.

“It was not done because Lavern Ritch was in any way a threat to (Davies),” he said. “It was done — and evidence will show — because of the rage and the hardness in (Davies’) heart.”

The trial will resume Monday with Merz asking further questions of Chavez, many of them expected to be related to his statements to police.

Contact Lynda Cohen:



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