Defense attorneys in rare murder case demand evidence from prosecution

Robert Barrios

Four young defendants facing conspiracy and murder charges will
wait another two months before setting a date for their preliminary
hearing as their defense attorneys fight to get a hold of more
evidence.
Four young defendants facing conspiracy and murder charges will wait another two months before setting a date for their preliminary hearing as their defense attorneys fight to get a hold of more evidence.

Although the defendants have not officially entered pleas, they will eventually plea not guilty, which will trigger a preliminary hearing, said Deputy Alternate Defender Jessica Delgado. In the meantime, defense attorneys said they can’t move forward until a judge decides whether to force the District Attorney’s Office to hand over witnesses’ contact information in the case surrounding the death of Larry Martinez Jr., 18, who was gunned down by a rival gang Nov. 2008 within blocks of the Gilroy Police Department.

Without interviewing those bystanders who witnessed the shooting, attorneys for the four defendants charged with Martinez’s murder cannot conduct a proper investigation and appropriately prepare themselves for the preliminary hearing, the attorneys have said. Although the defense has the police reports detailing the witnesses’ accounts of the shooting, it does not have contact information for those witnesses.

“We can’t proceed until we have all the discovery,” Delgado said.

Newly assigned Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Arroyo will decide on the discovery motion 9 a.m. March 26 in Department 110 of the South County Courthouse in Morgan Hill.

Robert Barrios, 21; Heather Ashford, 19; and Angel Solorzano, 20, did not intent to kill Martinez. But even though they didn’t fire the gun that killed their friend and cousin, the three face conspiracy and murder charges for contributing to Martinez’s death during a clash with a rival gang. Martinez, Solorzano and Barrios were Norteño gang members, police said.

The fourth defendant, alleged Sureño gang member Cristian Jimenez, 21, also faces a murder charge and a felony gun possession charge for pulling the trigger of the gun that killed Martinez, according to court documents.

About half an hour before the shooting, Jimenez and two other Sureños who are still at large – Edgardo Centeno, 19, and an unnamed juvenile – threw a rock at the car Martinez and Solorzano rode in while Ashford drove, according to police. After a brief discussion, Ashford, Martinez and Solorzano picked up Barrios and returned to confront the Sureños, police said. Armed with a small bat, Martinez and his friends snuck up on the Sureños from behind, provoking the rival gang members to turn and shoot, prosecutors said.

Instead of charging only those Sureños suspected of killing Martinez, District Attorney Dolores Carr used a rarely-invoked rule – the provocative act murder theory – to charge all three of Martinez’s associates for contributing to his death for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

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