Judge to decide on uncensored police reports in Tara Romero case

Martin Murphy Middle School students release balloons as they pass by a plaque of Tara Romero during a dedication ceremony Thursday for a memorial in honor of Romoero.

The judge presiding over the case of five young men suspected of murdering Morgan Hill resident Tara Romero, 14, is expected to issue a ruling next week on whether or not the defendants can have access to uncensored police reports.

Romero was shot to death in a drive-by shooting near the intersection of Cosmo and Del Monte avenues Nov. 4, 2011. She was standing on a grassy knoll near the intersection with a group of friends about her age. Three of those teens – all Morgan Hill residents and all Sobrato High School students at the time – were injured by the gunfire, police said.

While police think the suspected shooters are gang-related and carried out the shooting for gang-related reasons, the victims were not involved in any illegal street gang activity. The victims were standing in the area waiting for a ride home from a birthday party.

Esmeling Bahena, 18 of Morgan Hill; Ricardo Diaz, 19 of Morgan Hill; Fernando Mateo Lopez, 20 of Gilroy; Primitivo Hernandez, 23 of San Jose; and Ramon Gutierrez, 17 of Morgan Hill are each charged with murder and attempted murder, with enhancements for being associated with an illegal street gang.

They were arrested within an hour after the shooting, as a Morgan Hill officer saw their car blow through a stop sign in the area and flee to a home on Barnell Avenue – about a mile from the shooting scene.

The suspects will next appear at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose July 26, according to deputy district attorney Peter Waite.

For the last few months, the prosecutors and defendants have been arguing an evidence-sharing issue, in which the suspects are seeking access to the police reports of the incident in which the names and addresses of witnesses and victims are not redacted.

Waite has said that the defendants should not be allowed access to such information because it could endanger the lives of witnesses and victims.

The suspects have not yet entered a plea.

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