Prosecutors begin to wrap up case

PASADENA — Prosecutors in the trial of two Echo Park gang members charged in the 2004 shooting death of a 16-year-old Glendale boy began wrapping up their case in Pasadena Superior Court as they called Glendale Police and Los Angeles County investigators to testify Tuesday.

Glendale Police, a ballistics expert and a medical examiner from Los Angeles County were involved in the initial investigation of defendants Carlos Palma, 20, and Julian Martinez, 21.

Palma and Martinez face charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder for the Dec. 30, 2004, drive-by shooting in Glendale that killed 16-year-old Carlos Pinon and seriously injured his friend, Juan Beltran, who was 15 at the time.

Jurors faced multiple posters, ballistics demonstrations and overhead projections as Deputy District Atty. Martin Bean highlighted key evidence in the investigation of the shooting, which occurred near the corner of Lake Street and Justin Avenue.

Key in the prosecution's contention that Carlos Pinon was running away from the car as shots were fired was testimony from William Sherry, a deputy medical examiner for Los Angeles County. Sherry testified that exit points for both bullet wounds were on the front side of the boy's body.

Jurors sat rigid as Sherry used a stick to point to enlarged photos taken of the clean, dime-sized bullet holes in Pinon's body.

The fatal bullet hit him under his left shoulder blade — piercing his heart and left lung before exiting near the center of his chest, Sherry said. Another bullet hit him in his right ankle.

David Kim, a ballistics expert for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said all eight bullets or shell casings found at the scene were fired from the same gun.

Glendale Police Lt. Ian Grimes testified that several items found in the rooms of each defendant had logos for an Echo Park gang painted or written on them, while forensic specialist Cynthia Edison confirmed that police found eight shell casings and two projectiles — meaning at least eight shots were fired.

But even as the prosecution tied up loose ends for a case they are expected to conclude on Monday, the defense began laying the groundwork for its arguments.

Defense lawyers seized on testimony by Martinez's fiance and Carlos Palma's mother as they began to chip away at the perception that their defendants either didn't care, or were cognitive that a shooting was about to occur.

Martinez's fiance, Helen Guevara, said he acted unusually quiet the night of the shooting and was affectionate "more than usual."

"I had a feeling something was wrong," Guevara said.

She broke down in tears as she began to describe the last time she saw Martinez before he was arrested by Glendale police the next day on Dec. 31.

"He came to the bedroom and gave me a kiss and I told him to be careful and we said our goodbyes," she said after composing herself on the stand.

After Bean had established with Carlos Palma's mother, Margarita Guellen, that he had received a call from a friend offering a ride to a friend's house shortly before the shooting, Guy O'Brien — who represents Martinez — laid the groundwork for a possible argument next week based on phone records.

O'Brien has said that his client's cellphone records for that night would help clear his name.

He sought to cement Guellen's testimony ahead of next week that her son did not use the only house phone or her cellphone to call any of the suspects that night.

"Well, you never called Juan Martinez did you?" O'Brien asked.

Speaking through a translator, Guellen paused before she shook her head adamantly and replied, "No."

Defense lawyers will likely begin to lay out their cases late Monday after the prosecution rests.


  • JASON WELLS covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at jason.wellslatimes.com.
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