STOCKTON — After more than 50 court dates over three years, including a trial that lasted nearly one month, the fates of two suspects in a deadly 2015 crime spree in south Stockton are in the hands of a jury.
Defense attorneys Doug Jacobson and Michael Moore delivered their closing arguments Wednesday morning, and after prosecutor Kevin Rooney completed his rebuttal, the jury headed off to deliberate on a case that involved two homicides, the severe wounding of a third victim and multiple robberies over 10 days in June 2015.
“Don’t let the large number of charges affect your ability to be fair,” cautioned Jacobson, who is representing defendant Ralph Gamboa, 23.
Moore, who is defending 18-year-old Javier Rodriguez, spent much of his time focusing on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
Rooney said if all the evidence is lying and the two defendants actually are innocent, then they are “the unluckiest young men in the world.”
The prosecutor added, “They are not the unluckiest men in the world. They’re just guilty.”
Gamboa is alleged to be the killer of 63-year-old Luis Zapien during a robbery June 11, 2015. Rodriguez is alleged to have killed 28-year-old Javier Rodriguez (no relation) the same day. Jesus Rodriguez also allegedly fired his gun at a 24-year-old victim, costing the man the sight in one of his eyes.
Jacobson, the attorney for Gamboa, argued that the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution was weak. In particular, Jacobson said that Gamboa’s alleged possession of the murder weapon three days after Zapien was killed was not proof that he used that gun to kill Zapien.
The defense attorney also questioned the testimony of a third suspect, Sirenia Alcauter, who pled guilty in exchange for a significant reduction to her prison time. Alcauter faced a possible sentence of at least 50 years in prison had she been convicted. Instead, she will serve 15 years in prison. Gamboa and Rodriguez face sentences of life without parole if they are found guilty.
Jacobson called Alcauter an “admitted liar” who got a “pretty sweet deal” in exchange for her testimony. Rooney defended her.
“You didn’t hear one example,” of a lie by Alcauter, Rooney said. “What did she lie about? Mr. Jacobson said she got a pretty sweet deal. She’s going to prison for 15 years. She pled to 15 years. You know why? Because she would have been convicted. She would have gotten 50 to life in prison.”
Moore, Rodriguez’s attorney, honed in on the prosecution’s use of eyewitness testimony, which he and Jacobson said is notoriously unreliable.
“History is replete with examples,” Moore told the jury. “This happens all the time.”
Moore singled out several eyewitnesses whose testimony he viewed as especially shaky, including one who errantly claimed that Alcauter had a young daughter with her at one of the crime scenes.
“That’s what the mind does,” Moore said. “You’re being asked to rely on unreliable sources.”
Rooney defended his eyewitnesses and added there was plenty of evidence beyond the witnesses’ statements.
“You don’t have to accept (eyewitness testimony) alone,” Rooney told the jury. “You have all of this corroboration. You have the gun, you have the admission by Sirenia, the pattern of crimes on the same day.”
In pressing for convictions, Rooney used current political phraseology to make his point.
“We live in a world where if you don’t like the facts, you call them fake news,” he said. “There are some who say we live in a post-truth world. Not in here. The things you know are based on the evidence.”
Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rphillipsblog.