LOS ANGELES – A jury began deliberating in the case against a reputed member of a racist street gang charged with murdering a 14-year-old black girl and a potential witness.
The jury heard closing arguments Wednesday against defendants Jonathan Fajardo and Daniel Aguilar.
Fajardo, 22, is charged with the 2006 killing of eighth-grader Cheryl Green and the special circumstance that it was a hate crime. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
In addition, Fajardo and Aguilar, 23, are accused in the stabbing death of 21-year-old Christopher Ash, a potential witness in the killing of Green, and face special circumstance allegations that include committing murder to further the activities of the 204th Street gang.
The two-week trial detailed alleged violence used by the gang to maintain its power in the neighborhood.
Deputy District Attorney Gretchen Ford told jurors in her closing argument that Fajardo warned during police interviews that the missing gun in the attack could be used against other blacks, police, rival gang members or snitches.
Green was shot to death in a driveway on Dec. 15, 2006 in the Harbor Gateway area south of downtown Los Angeles. She was hanging out with friends after school about a block from her house. Three other teens were wounded.
The attack sparked protests by residents, activists and politicians.
Prosecutors contend that Fajardo was the gunman who opened fire on the group, and that he was a member of an Hispanic gang that targeted blacks.
"All black people are their enemies," Ford told jurors. "Really innocent people could die for no reason other than the ridiculous ideas of this gang."
Fajardo's attorney Thomas White disputed the allegation that the shooting was a hate crime.
"It was an accident that rose of fear and anger," he said. "This was a rash impulse."
Fajardo and Aguilar are accused in the stabbing death of Ash, a man who gang members suspected had talked to police about the Green killing. Aguilar lured Ash, his friend, to a garage where he was stabbed about 80 times, Ford contended.
"He walked over and kicked his dying best friend," the prosecutor said.
Attorney Antonio Bestard, who represents Aguilar, argued that his client did not know Ash would be killed and only followed orders from older gang members because otherwise he would have been killed.
Ford told jurors that even though Aguilar didn't stab Ash, he was just as guilty of murder as those who did.
Prosecutors said Ash actually was stabbed by Jose Covarrubias, who has acknowledged the killing and testified for the prosecution. He was expected to be sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Jurors began deliberations Wednesday then adjourned until Sept. 8.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com