A Sacramento judge declared a mistrial Tuesday after jurors failed to reach a verdict in the murder trial of three men accused in the 2012 shooting death of 3-year-old Jorge Azios III.
“We have reached another stalemate,” Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon read from the jury foreman’s note. Jurors were “firm in their beliefs, firm in their conviction and will not be swayed,” the foreman’s note continued.
Jurors were divided 10-2 in favor of acquitting Eric Minjares, 20, Gabriel Quintero, 23, and Marcus Weber, 19. The three were accused of firing the barrage that killed the tot late July 4, 2012, at Loucreta and Palmer House drives in south Sacramento as he slept in the back of the sport-utility vehicle his father drove.
We are deadlocked
Sacramento Superior Court juror to Judge Eugene Balonon
The deadlock ended for now a trial that was emotionally charged from its very start, with family of Azios and the three defendants packing the courtroom and holding vigil on separate floors of the courthouse awaiting the jury’s decision.
After Tuesday’s mistrial, stunned Azios family members walked silently out of the courtroom without speaking to a reporter, with one man pausing, then breaking down in tears in a courthouse stairwell.
For Minjares’ family, the decision was met with joy and relief. His attorney, Jesse Ortiz, said the family was “grateful that 10 of the 12 jurors reached the right decision (but) Eric should be going home tonight. Our clients aren’t guilty of this.”
Prosecutors say the three were armed with .40- and .45-caliber handguns when they borrowed a sport-utility vehicle at a party in south Sacramento, then tracked and targeted the SUV and the elder Azios, unaware of the boy inside.
Defense attorneys for the three argued Anthony Canales fired the fatal shots. Canales testified he had sought revenge against the older Azios’ brother, Alfonso Martinez, after a July 2011 Florin Road shootout that left Canales wounded and in jail. Canales was brought in by prosecutors from witness protection to appear at trial.
Defense attorneys said investigators could find neither DNA nor fingerprints in Canales’ car linking the three to the crime. And Canales admitted on the stand that he lied to investigators to protect himself from a murder charge and jail time.
“He played investigators, he played the DA and he’s trying to play you,” Ortiz told jurors in his closing argument last week.
Sacramento County District Attorney’s prosecutors have until a scheduled Aug. 13 hearing to consider a new trial. Minjares, Quintero and Weber, who tearfully denied killing young Jorge on the witness stand, remain held in Sacramento County custody pending the August court date.