WALLA WALLA — A Superior Court jury has convicted a local man of murdering a rival gang member and shooting at other people in a confrontation last year in an alley in the west end of town.
As a result, Benito Gomez will be ordered to serve the rest of his life in prison when he’s sentenced later by Judge Donald W. Schacht.
Gomez stood stoically as the guilty verdicts were read at noon Tuesday in a courtroom at the County Courthouse. Several of his family members in attendance sobbed.
Following testimony in the trial that began Wednesday, the nine-man, three-woman panel deliberated a total of about 8 1/2 hours Monday and Tuesday before reaching its unanimous verdicts.
The jury found Gomez, 19, guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 20-year-old Julio Cesar Martinez, and of six counts of first-degree assault for shooting at other people in the alley and in an adjacent residence.
Second-degree murder is an intentional killing without premeditation. Gomez had been charged with first-degree murder, a claim that Martinez’s death was premeditated, but the jury wasn’t able to reach a verdict on that charge.
With firearm enhancements mandated by the jury’s findings, Gomez will serve the rest of his life in prison. Under state law, Schacht must sentence Gomez to a specific period of time between 91 3/4 years and nearly 115 years.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Gomez didn’t testify at his trial, but denied to police and through his attorney, Jerry Makus, that he committed the crimes.
Makus had no comment after the verdicts were announced, other than to say his client will appeal.