Opening pleadings ended Thursday in the MS-13 gang murder trial, with the prosecutor citing cell phone data and what she said was evidence of seven handguns used by the 10 defendants to kill 10 victims across the city from 2013 to 2016.
In her presentation to the Santa Maria jury, Santa Barbara County Senior Assistant Attorney Ann Bramsen explained what she described as the circumstances surrounding the shootings and murders of the alleged victims, citing bursts of short appeals telephone calls between the accused before and after the murders. , and the handguns they use.
The No. 5 pistol – a 9-millimeter pistol whose mark is not known because it was not located, but was identified through casings and bullets left at the scene of the crime – was reportedly used to kill Abrahan Rojas-Najera, 21. .
Her 15-year-old brother, identified as Hugo N., was seriously injured in the shooting shortly after 7:30 p.m. on October 30, 2015 near the intersection of West Cook and South Smith streets. Bramsen said Rojas-Najera was shot several times in the back and later died.
A 911 call from a nearby male resident, who found them outside the Jewish temple and attempted to rescue, was broadcast in court.
Just before opening pleadings began on Wednesday in the MS-13 gang murder trial, members of the prosecution team tore up several sheets of white paper taped together to reveal an enlarged display with photos of each. of the 10 accused at the front of the courtroom.
“You are well, brother, breathe!” Breathe! “The caller can be heard saying to the victim, before addressing the dispatcher in a frantic jumble of words. A person screaming in pain can be heard in the background.” Several shots fired! Cook and Smith! ”
But in their rebuttals, the five defense attorneys said not so quickly, claiming that the cell phone tower data was not precise enough to prove anything and only showed the defendants were at home because they lived in the area.
Additionally, they said the prosecution lacked crucial evidence such as DNA, surveillance video, proof of gun possession or anything other than vague descriptions of the suspects.
The accused are Marcos Manuel Sanchez Torres, Juan Carlos Lozano Membreno, Traquilino Robles Morales, Juan Carlos Urbina Serrano and Luis German Mejia Orellana. The trial officially began on July 12 with motions for evidence in Department 8 of the Superior Court of Santa Maria. Jury selection began in August and ended earlier this month.
A second group of five defendants including Jose Balmore Saravia Lainez, Jose Ricardo Saravia Lainez, Jose Juan Sanchez Torres, Jose Narciso Escobar Hernandez and Olvin Serrano is tried separately in Santa Barbara. The group is in jury selection.
The 10 defendants were split in half on December 20, 2019 after Superior Court Judge John McGregor ruled that a fair trial could not go through with all the defendants, their lawyers and their translators crammed into one room. ‘hearing.
All are accused members of MS-13, described as a violent transnational criminal organization, and are part of a local clique known as Santa Maria Little Salvy. They were arrested in a March 2016 attack known as Operation Matador and have been charged with multiple murders and gang conspiracies linked to the 10 murders. Each accused pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Before concluding his statements Thursday, Bramsen explained the circumstances of the shooting.
One of them included the murder of Oscar Joaquin, 17, who Bramsen described as a member of the Northwestern Santa Maria gang – West Park’s rival. He was reportedly armed with a bat, while his two associates, identified as Kevin Ramnarine and an unidentified man from John Doe, carried machetes.
They were attacked shortly after 10 p.m. on July 28, 2015 near the intersection of West Barrett Street and Western Avenue.
Joaquin was shot several times and sliced with a machete, before one of his attackers completely cut off his left hand, which was on a nearby sidewalk.
The November 20, 2015 shooting in the 1500 block of South Thornburg that killed Ulises Garcia Mendez, 17, also injured two other people, including Gerardo Gonzalez, 16.
Bramsen played a recording of a conversation between Gonzalez and an interviewer on the ambulance ride to the hospital.
During the interview, Gonzalez can be heard in pain but gradually calms down as paramedics tend to his injuries.
He told the interviewer they were walking home when three men approached them and said “what’s up” before each pulled out a handgun.
The men, who looked like “normal guys,” started shooting, firing several bullets at Mendez, including one that hit his spinal cord, causing him to collapse and eventually die at the scene, according to Bramsen. Gonzalez has been punched several times.
Attorney Chris Ames, who represents Luis German Mejia Orellana, who has been indicted on 41 separate counts, asked jury members to “compartmentalize” the circumstances and not allow the “considerable volume” of charges influence their verdicts.
“The prosecution has built its case around the association and the relations that Mr. Orellana maintains with the [other defendants]Ames said, adding that the prosecution’s cell phone data analysis is flawed as it can be affected by variables such as weather, number of turns and call volume in a geographic area. . “I’ll show you how unreliable the cell is [data] is.”
The trial resumes on November 29 in Department 8 of the Superior Court of Santa Maria.