A 19-year-old Oxnard man was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a rival gang member in front of a convenience store last March.
Robert B. Truitt faces a maximum sentence of 30 years to life in prison for fatally shooting Manuel Albis, 21, outside an Oxnard convenience store March 19, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Donald C. Glynn.
Witnesses testified that the two flashed gang signs at each other before Truitt shot Albis once in the chest and three times in the back near Dorija's Market on Channel Islands Boulevard, said defense attorney Willard Wiksell.
While Truitt testified and Wiksell argued that the shooting was in self-defense, Glynn persuaded the jury that it was premeditated murder.
"I'm very happy with it," Glynn said of the verdict. "I would have been shocked if they'd not found him guilty of murder. It was just a question of whether his actions amounted to premeditation."
Albis and Truitt belonged to rival gangs, and the two had personal animosity toward each other, Glynn said. They flashed their gangs' hand signals "as a way of antagonizing each other," he said. "It was not a gang-related shooting."
Truitt was associated with the Lemonwood Chiques and Albis was a member of the Surtown gang.
Truitt showed no reaction as Judge Charles McGrath read the verdict, which, Glynn said, carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life for murder, plus five years for using a weapon in the killing.
But afterward, the defendant's mother angrily accused Wiksell of failing to introduce evidence that could have helped her son's case.
"My son got hanged," said Angel Leyvas. "There's a lot of things they didn't bring out. They didn't even bring out that he was intoxicated, that he was on drugs. . . . This justice sure stinks in Ventura County."
Leyvas said that Truitt had taken 11 Valium pills that day to calm himself after their animosity grew out of jealousy over a woman. She repeated Truitt's testimony at trial, that he had shot Albis in self-defense because he believed Albis was about to attack him.
But Wiksell said Truitt never told the jury he was intoxicated, and that there was no evidence to support Leyvas' claims.
"What he testified to was that he thought he could go over there and talk to Manuel Albis," Wiksell said. "Manuel Albis threatened him and came at him, and he fired out of fear of great bodily injury. . . . It's understandable his mother is upset, but there wasn't any credible evidence that he was intoxicated."
Wiksell said he intends to ask McGrath to reduce the verdict from first-degree murder to second-degree murder or manslaughter at sentencing, which is scheduled for Dec. 2. The verdict, he said, was not supported by the evidence.
"I think this verdict reflects in a very serious way the fear that the average citizen in Ventura County has of gang members, and they won't tolerate gang members in any degree," Wiksell said. "Mr. Truitt's association with gangs--I think that worked to his detriment."