Three Death Verdicts Issued in Medina Case
Orange County jurors, calling the evidence “overwhelming,” handed down three separate death verdicts Wednesday to Teofilo (Junior) Medina for the execution slayings of three convenience store clerks in a 1984 robbery spree.
“The information about the crimes he had committed just kept coming and coming,” juror Charles Conklin of Westminster said after the verdicts were read in a Santa Ana courtroom. “The evidence was so overwhelming that we really did not have any choice.”
Medina, 43, wearing leg chains and handcuffed to a waist chain, nonchalantly tapped his foot as the verdicts were read and asked his attorneys: “Was that for three or four?”
Medina was accused of a fourth murder during a three-week crime spree, but because it was outside Orange County’s jurisdiction, that case was not part of the formal charges. However, jurors, who convicted him on the three murders two months ago did consider the fourth slaying in Corona when they voted for the three death verdicts.
It took jurors just 12 hours of deliberation to decide on the death penalty, and they took just one vote for each of the three murders.
Mental Impairment Cited
Medina’s lawyers had asked jurors to consider Medina’s mental impairment, which was supported by testimony from doctors, in arguing for a verdict of life without parole instead of death.
“We did consider it,” jury foreman Leighton Anderson said Wednesday. “It wasn’t enough. If this had been for a single murder, it’s possible we might have had a different outcome. But when you look at how many people he killed and the overwhelming evidence of his violent past, we’re all comfortable we made the right decision.”
Medina had been paroled to California from Arizona, where he served seven years on a rape conviction, less than three months before the 1984 robberies in which the four clerks were killed. Two of his sisters, one in Lake Elsinore and another in Medina’s hometown of Santa Ana, promised to help him get reestablished in society.
Before the Arizona conviction, Medina had been in prison in California for a conviction in a bar shooting. He had a long history of assault and burglary convictions before that. Medina also admitted committing three separate assaults while in prison in Arizona, one of them a random stabbing that left several men wounded in a cafeteria line.
Prosecutors also introduced evidence of a rape committed by Medina after his return to California on parole.
Arrested at Sister’s Home
Medina was arrested at his sister’s home in Lake Elsinore on Nov. 7, 1984, shortly after an attempted robbery of a Santa Ana convenience store.
Two passers-by had chased his car and copied down the license plate number. When Medina was arrested, police found in his jacket a gun that county criminalists later testified was the weapon used in the four convenience store killings between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5, 1984.
Prosecutors also found witnesses who had seen a car similar to Medina’s at two of the robbery incidents. Medina’s fingerprints were found at the scene of one of the murders, and he had confessed at least some of the crimes to one of his sisters.
The three Orange County victims were Horacio H. Ariza, 20, killed at an Arco gas station and mini-mart in Santa Ana on Oct. 18; Douglas M. Metal, 23, killed at a drive-in dairy in Garden Grove on Nov. 4, and Victor M. Rea, 20, who was killed at a Gasco service station in Santa Ana on Nov. 5. The Corona victim, 18-year-old Craig Martin, was killed at a mini-mart on Oct. 19.
Although Medina has not been convicted of Martin’s slaying, the Superior Court jury was allowed to consider evidence of that killing in deciding between the death penalty and life without parole in the three Orange County cases. They could only use it, however, if all 12 jurors agreed that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in that killing. They did.
Medina’s lawyers conceded it, too.
They argued to the jurors that Medina should be spared a death verdict because his mental impairment was to blame for his killings. They also argued that Arizona could have kept Medina in prison another 60 years if they had pursued a trial on the assault incidents.
“They (Arizona officials) just wanted to get rid of their problem by dumping him on California,” said James D. Stone, one of Medina’s attorneys. “If they had kept Junior in prison like they should have, those four people would be alive today.”
Stone agreed that he and co-counsel Ronald P. Kreber were probably more upset about the verdict than Medina.
Knew It Would Be Difficult
“You always wonder what you could have done different,” Stone said. “But we knew from the beginning it was going to come down to this day. With his violent past, we knew it would be very, very difficult.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown, in reacting to the death verdict, said, “The jury was just great. The jurors have been with this case since July; they really paid careful attention. It’s a great verdict.”
Superior Court Judge James K. Turner set formal sentencing for Feb. 20, 1987. Turner has the authority to reduce the jury verdict to something less than death. But no Orange County judge has done that since the state Legislature restored the death penalty in 1978.