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Hit-and-run murder defendant takes the stand
ALBANY -- The Schenectady man accused of being behind the wheel during a deadly hit and run back in 2012 took the stand in his own defense.
Investigators say Pablo Cruz struck and killed Paul Merges Jr. on Manning Boulevard in Albany and then refused to stop for police with the victim's body hanging from his pick-up truck.
While on the stand Cruz called the trial, "A bozo case from the beginning." He told the jury he was not there the night of November 24th and he said the testimony the jury has been hearing the last week is a "bunch of lies."
This testimony from Cruz was made despite his own attorney urging him to keep quiet. Legal experts say an attorney cannot insist that their client refrain from taking the stand partially because if Cruz is convicted that could make way for a messy appeal down the road.
"There would definitely be an appeal issue if the defendant said, 'I wanted to testify and my attorney didn't let me.' The question now is; Is he going to try to make some other argument that, 'My attorney was ineffective because he gave an opening that totally contradicted what I had said to him," legal analyst Paul DerOhannesian said.
There was of a competency hearing for Cruz back in October where he was deemed fit to stand trial.
The prosecution had little to add after Cruz's testimony.
As for the victim, Merges Jr.'s father, brother, ex-wife and children were all in court. Some of them crying while the prosecution played dash cam video of the incident and all of them listened as Cruz testified.
Merger Junior's family did not want to go on camera for an interview but they say they plan to be at the Albany County Courthouse on Tuesday morning for closing arguments.