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Murder Trial in Closing Stages : Prosecutor Labels Cinco ‘Depraved Human Being’

Joselito (Jerry) Cinco is a “depraved human being” and deserves to be convicted of first-degree murder for the September, 1984, killings of two San Diego police officers and attempted murder for the wounding of a third, a prosecutor argued Tuesday at the start of closing statements by both sides.

“He carried his lethal plan for execution out to perfection,” San Diego County Deputy Dist. Atty. Howard Shore said in his summary. “He’s a first-degree murderer twice. I’m asking you to find this cruel, depraved human being guilty of first-degree murder.”

Defense attorney John Cotsirilos began his summation Tuesday and is expected to finish today. The prosecution will have a final opportunity to rebut the defense’s argument before West Orange County Superior Court Judge Luis Cardenas reads a lengthy compilation of instructions to the jury, which will then begin deliberating.

Shore urged the jury to convict Cinco, 28, of Spring Valley, of first-degree murder with special circumstances. Shore asked jurors to find three special-circumstances allegations to be true, including multiple murders, murder committed to avoid arrest, and murder of a police officer in the performance of duty.

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Cotsirilos said that at issue is whether Cinco committed first- or second-degree murder. Cotsirilos told jurors that he will be suggesting a conviction but didn’t specify a recommendation.

The case, moved to Orange County on a successful change of venue motion, concerns the Sept. 14, 1984, shootings of officer Kimberly Tonahill, 24, and Timothy Ruopp, 31, in the Grape Street section of Balboa Park.

If the Orange County jury determines that Cinco committed first-degree murder with special circumstances, a penalty phase will be held to determine whether he should be executed or held in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Cinco is also charged with the attempted murder of Officer Gary Mitrovich, who was hit in the shoulder after responding to the scene.

“The evidence is overwhelming with respect to premeditation and deliberation,” Shore said.

Calling him “a cop killer,” Shore said Cinco fired on both officers when they were already disabled on the ground.

“He was clearly killing to avoid arrest. He didn’t want to go to jail,” Shore argued.

Cinco had earlier bragged that he could “outshoot any cop” and had “utter contempt” for police, Shore said.

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Cotsirilos did not deny that Cinco shot both officers after Tonahill began to frisk him in a routine stop, but the attorney tried to cast doubt on whether the crime was premeditated.

Cotsirilos asked jurors to consider why Cinco would pick a public park to shoot two police officers in full view of people who knew him.

The defense attorney said it was “a great stretch of the imagination” that Cinco would choose to kill rather than face arrest because he had minor warrants outstanding.

“He’s being arrested on matters that he knows he can walk out of jail the next morning,” Cotsirilos said.

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“The shootings happened too unexpectedly . . . and that both officers had no time to react.”

Both officers were shot at four times. The fatal bullet hit Ruopp in the head, and another bullet struck Tonahill in the heart, passing through the side of her bulletproof vest.

Cotsirilos said the officers were not shot when they were down.

He said the “absence of reason” in the shootings was striking.

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Security was tighter than usual in the courtroom. All spectators were searched thoroughly with a metal detector and were told to sit in one section of the courtroom. No one was allowed to sit in the audience behind Cinco.


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