DP Trial part II

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DP Trial part II

Post  Ty on Tue May 20, 2008 10:52 am

Second 'Dead Presidents' trial starts

Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/19/2008 10:57:21 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO - The second trial in the so-called "Dead Presidents" case got under way Monday against Lorenzo Inez Arias and another man who prosecutors said had a lust for power that led to the deaths of four men almost eight years ago.
Luis Mendoza wanted to rise to a leadership position in a Westside street gang, Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Kersey told jurors in her opening statement.

She said people to get ahead in gangs, "You gain respect or you take out the leadership."

In a shooting outside a West Vine Street duplex in July 2000, a group of gunmen killed the leaders of two street gangs and two other men.

Prosecutors say evidence points to Mendoza and his crew of Arias, John Adrian Ramirez and Froylan Chiprez. Defense lawyers say prosecutors are relying on a key witness who was drunk at the time and was unwilling to tell police about possible suspects.

"When he was asked by a police officer, he just clammed up and refused," said Richard Crouter, who represents Mendoza.

Crouter also told jurors that prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mendoza and Arias did not act in self-defense, as five guns were found at the scene after the shooters left.

Police went to the duplex in the 1200 block of West Vine Street and found three men dead: 33-year-old Johnny Agudo; his brother Gilbert Michael Agudo, 27; and Anthony Daniel Luna, 23.

Luna's half brother, Marselino Gregory Luna,


19, was taken to a hospital, where he died. Two other men were wounded.
The Agudo brothers each were presidents of local gangs, leading those in law-enforcement circles to dub the case "Dead Presidents."

Prosecutors say Mendoza and his crew were not fueled solely by power and control. The men also acted on an order to kill Johnny Agudo, Kersey said.

The group went to the West Vine Street duplex late at night to punish Johnny Agudo, who had been labeled a snitch for cooperating with police about gang member Sal Hernandez, Kersey said.

The plan included eliminating all witnesses, prosecutors say.

Dean Pic'l, who represents Arias, challenged the jury to see all the evidence in the case and to find the imperfections in statements by the key prosecution witness.

Prosecutors have requested the witness's name not be used because of threats against the person's life.

In March, a Superior Court judge declared a mistrial for Ramirez after jurors in his separate trial could not reach unanimous verdicts on most of the charges against him.

The six-man, six-woman jury in Ramirez's trial earlier this year reached only two verdicts - not guilty of first- degree murder in two of four the deaths. Jurors were deadlocked on the rest of the charges.

Ramirez will be tried again separately, prosecutors said. Chiprez remains a fugitive. Authorities believe he is hiding in Mexico.


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