Jury still out in murder trial

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— The jury in the Benito Gomez murder and assault trial returned to the County Courthouse this morning about 9 a.m. to resume deliberations.

The nine-man three-woman panel discussed the case behind closed doors for about 5 1/2 hours Monday before separating for the night at about 5:30 p.m.

Verdicts had not been reached as of press time today.

Gomez is charged in Superior Court with first-degree murder, accusing him of the premeditated killing of rival gang member Julio Cesar Martinez. However, the jury has been given the alternative of considering the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which doesn’t include an element of premeditation.

Gomez also is accused of six counts of first-degree assault.

In closing arguments at the trial Monday morning before the case was submitted to the jury, Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle told the panel the case can be summed up as follows:

“Benito Gomez brought a gun to a rock and a knife fight and he didn’t even bother to tell the rest of his gang.”

Nagle reminded the jury that Gomez’s fellow gang members testified he was the masked shooter and two neighbors identified him as running from the scene. Also, the killing was a deliberate, intentional murder, Nagle said.

He argued it was premeditated, suggesting Gomez “formed the intent as early as when he met up (with his fellow gang members) at the corner of Myrtle and Sprague.”

Nagle acknowledged some testimony at the trial was inconsistent, but maintained the prosecution’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt had been met.

“You have to look at the big picture,” he said.

Defense attorney Jerry Makus, on the other hand, chipped away at the prosecution’s case, maintaining it had not been proven.

He told the jury that, although Gomez didn’t testify, “My client denies he committed these crimes.”

Makus said no physical evidence implicates Gomez and pointed out that DNA found on shell casings at the scene did not come from his client.

Makus also questioned the truthfulness of gang members who testified against Gomez, and pointed out that two victims who are not members of a gang described the shooter’s body type as larger than that of Gomez, who is fairly small.

Also, Makus said, there was testimony that a member of Gomez’s own gang threatened Gomez before he was arrested, saying he’d be killed if he ever snitched.

“The proof (Gomez committed the crimes) is not beyond a reasonable doubt,” Makus said.

During the closing arguments, Gomez sat with one or both hands placed on the defense table, looking straight ahead much of the time.

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