– The fate of two alleged gang members is in the hands of the
jury, which began deliberating Tuesday what prosecution and defense
attorneys called a
attempted murder case.
By Lori Stuenkel
Gilroy – The fate of two alleged gang members is in the hands of the jury, which began deliberating Tuesday what prosecution and defense attorneys called a “very serious” attempted murder case.
The attorneys gave two different explanations for why the case against Israel Enrique Hernandez, 20, and Juan Hernandez, 23, weighs so heavily. Lawyers for the defendants reminded jurors that the fates of their clients rests in their hands. Deputy District Attorney Stuart Scott asked jurors to consider the residents who were put at risk by the defendants’ actions.
“It’s because these are the streets people live in, these are the streets where children play in the city of Gilroy,” Scott said.
Both defendants are charged with attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle, with firearm and gang enhancements. They face up to life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors say on Dec. 28, 2003, Juan Hernandez drove a car down Church Street and slowed when Enrique Hernandez recognized a car belonging to a rival. Enrique Hernandez is charged with firing three to four rounds from the back seat, which missed the car and struck three houses. Enrique Hernandez is also charged with assault with a deadly weapon, for throwing a glass beer bottle at a man earlier that day.
Ric Squaglia, Enrique Hernandez’s lawyer, asked jurors to find his client guilty of a lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon for the shooting, which they may do if they find he did not intend to kill the driver of the car at which he fired.
“He made a terrible mistake, a stupid mistake, and a mistake he’s going to pay for,” Squaglia said. “I don’t know where the intent to kill is. … (It’s) impossible for him to hit that car because the bullets will pass over the top.”
Enrique Hernandez has testified that he shot from the right side of the back seat, with his hand out the window and pointed across the roof, to shoot at a car traveling in the opposite direction. Another man who was in the car that day, Roland Lopez, has testified that Enrique Hernandez was on the left side of the back seat.
Scott told jurors that meant Enrique Hernandez likely fired out the left rear window as the car passed. The angle at which the bullets struck nearby houses indicates Hernandez trained his gun on the car as it drove away, Scott said.
Maria Fonseca, lawyer for Juan Hernandez, who is accused of driving the car, reiterated her client’s testimony that he was hanging out at a Church Street apartment complex that afternoon, not “looking for trouble.”
“No matter how many times the prosecutor told you Juan Hernandez was driving that dark blue Taurus … it doesn’t make it so,” Fonseca said. “We don’t have any independent evidence that Juan Hernandez was the driver of the vehicle.”
Still, if jurors conclude that Juan Hernandez was the driver and find him guilty, they should convict him of the lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon, a firearm, Fonseca said.
“If Juan Hernandez is guilty of aiding and abetting anything, it’s that,” she said.
In his rebuttal, Scott reminded jurors that two people who were in the car that day – Enrique Hernandez and Lopez – initially told police the same story, that Juan Hernandez was driving the car. Fonseca questioned the validity of Lopez’s testimony.
Both defense attorneys told jurors the crimes committed the day of the shooting were not gang-related. Squaglia said clothing and other apparent gang paraphernalia found in Enrique Hernandez’s was not proof of gang involvement. And Juan Hernandez, though an admitted gang member, was not involved in gang activity that day, his lawyer said.
“Does that mean everything he did or did not do in his adult life is gang-related?” Fonseca said.