Murder trial wraps up

Jury instructions and deliberations are on tap for Monday morning in Benito Gomez's murder trial.

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WALLA WALLA - Witness testimony and presentation of evidence in the murder trial of Benito Gomez concluded Friday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle rested his case shortly before 2 p.m.

Immediately afterward, defense attorney Jerry Makus said he was resting on the prosecution's case, meaning he would present no witnesses to testify or introduce any evidence.

Gomez elected not to testify in his own defense.

The trial will resume Monday morning when Judge Donald W. Schacht will instruct the jury on relevant law, the panel will hear closing arguments by the attorneys and begin deliberating Gomez's fate.

On Friday, jury members heard testimony from Andres Solis, who said he was with Gomez and other fellow gang members at what was going to be a fight in the alley with the rival gang. Solis said he didn't know anyone was armed with a gun and didn't see who fired, killing rival Julio Martinez.

Solis said the first shot came from his left side. "After the first gunshot, I turned around and ran because I thought we were getting shot," he told the jury.

He acknowledged he initially lied to police several times about his involvement because he "wasn't able to go to jail."

He wasn't arrested or charged in connection with the case.

Since Wednesday when testimony began, a total of about 20 spectators - representing either support for Gomez or on behalf of Martinez - has attended each court session.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

at a glance

Defendant: Benito Gomez, 19.

Murder victim: Julio Cesar Martinez, 20, who was shot twice in the head about 6 p.m. on May 17, 2011, in an alley in the 300 block of Myrtle Street. He died later that night at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

Superior Court charges: One count of first-degree murder, accusing Gomez of the premeditated killing of Martinez, a rival gang member.

In addition, Gomez faces six counts of first-degree assault.

Officials say that when Martinez was killed, Gomez also shot at Martinez's fellow gang members Miguel Saucedo and Joseph Dejesus as they were fleeing from the alley into their apartment building at 331 Myrtle St.

Two other people, Jessica Glasby and David Cloyd, also were outside the residence and fled into it.

Roberto Cuevas and Patricia Nelson were inside an apartment at the house when a bullet entered through the door.

The charges against Gomez include firearm enhancements. If convicted as charged, he will serve the rest of his life in prison. The sentence would include 35 years on the enhancements, followed by an additional standard-range term of 66 1/2 years to more than 88 years.

The jury is composed of nine men and three women. Trial testimony began Wednesday.

Allegations: Gomez and three fellow gang members, Andres Solis, Alberto Ramirez and Michael Mercado met in the area of Sprague Avenue and Myrtle Street and decided to fight the rivals because they had moved into their area.

Gomez and his three fellow members walked south on Sprague, east on Chestnut Street and north into the alley between Chestnut and Myrtle. Gomez covered his face with a bandanna and the four approached the three rivals. As they were preparing to fight, Gomez drew a .40-caliber pistol and fired five bullets. Martinez was struck in the head by two of them. Gomez then fled west on Myrtle. His fellow gang members headed south down the alley and dispersed.

The murder weapon wasn't found.

Gomez, who was arrested May 21, 2011, has denied being involved in what police say has been the only gang-related homicide in the city.

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