Attorneys for three men accused of murdering Fullerton narcotics officer Tommy De La Rosa asked Superior Court Judge J. Kimball Walker on Friday to dismiss murder charges against their clients.
The attorneys said the prosecution, which concluded its case Wednesday, had failed to provide sufficient evidence to the jury linking the men to the crime. Walker is expected to rule on the motion Monday.
On trial and charged with murdering De La Rosa on June 21, 1991 during a Downey drug sting operation are Raul Meza, Jose Yuriar, Jesus Araclio and Fredrico Marriott, all of Los Angeles County.
Prosecutors contend that the four men planned to kill De La Rosa and rob him of the cocaine they thought he was going to sell to them for $4 million.
In addition to murder, Meza, Yuriar and Araclio are charged with lying in wait and committing murder during a robbery, both special circumstances that could make them eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
"Each (defendant) knew there would be some kind of struggle and they armed themselves," Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel A. Lenhart said during Friday's hearing. "They were in the position of an ambush. . . . The facts are evident that the defendants were, in fact, lying in wait."
Marriott, who was not charged with a special circumstance allegation, could get 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the murder charge.
Attorneys for all four men claim that the shooting was unplanned and asked that conspiracy charges be dropped, citing "insufficient evidence." But only three asked that murder charges be dropped.
Araclio's attorney, James E. Patterson, did not request that the murder charge against his client be dropped.
"The evidence is that Jesus Araclio armed himself and fired several shots into the rear house," Patterson wrote in his motion. "This is certainly evidence of an assault with a firearm from which a jury could infer anything from self-defense to murder, but certainly not an attempted robbery or a conspiracy to commit a robbery."
The 90-minute hearing was attended by more than 20 Fullerton police officers who continued to complain about Walker's performance.
In a June 5 letter, Fullerton Police Chief Phil Goehring wrote of his concerns about Walker's qualifications to Robert W. Parkin, the presiding judge of Norwalk Superior Court.
De La Rosa's partner, Dan Hughes, was held in contempt of court on Wednesday for asserting on the witness stand that the jury was not getting the truth.
Hughes was not fined or sentenced to jail but a subsequent court hearing could be held to determine whether the citation should stand.
Last week, Leslie De La Rosa, the officer's widow, walked out of the trial in tears after Walker made a remark that she felt implied her late husband could have been trying to rob the defendants during the sting operation.
At the conclusion of Friday's hearing, Walker responded to the criticism of his handling of the case by saying: "I am not pleased that some people think that I am not taking this case seriously. It is a serious case and I intend to give it the attention it deserves."