For their role in the 2007 stabbing murder of 16-year-old Lorenzo Carachure, Eastside gang members Bryan Medinilla, Ricardo Nava, and Raul Diaz were sentenced today in Santa Barbara Superior Court to 26 years to life, 15 years to life, and 15 years to life in prison, respectively. Medinilla had been convicted of first degree murder in connection with the stabbing; Nava and Diaz were found guilty of second degree murder.
They were also sentenced to three years each for being members of a criminal street gang, but that sentence will overlap the others. Nava’s 15-year sentence, however, will be tacked to the end of a 19-year prison term he’ll serve after being previously convicted of attempted murder in a separate gang-related attack.
Before Judge Clifford Anderson handed down the sentences, he heard statements from the three defense attorneys who argued their clients didn’t receive a fair trial and there hadn’t been sufficient evidence presented against them for the convictions to stand. They said the defendants deserved a new trial. (James Crowder, representing Medinilla, asked that Medinilla’s conviction be reduced to second degree murder if a new trial wasn’t possible.)
In virtually identical statements, the lawyers said evidence presented against Ruben Mize — who was sentenced two weeks ago to 60 years to life in prison for committing a string of brazen beatings and stabbings, including Carachure’s murder — influenced jurors as they decided the fate of Medinilla, Nava, and Diaz. In fact, they tried a number of times to separate their cases from Mize’s.
The attorneys said that during the course of the murder trial (the second, after the first ended in a hung jury) their clients — while Mize’s friends and fellow gang members — were unfairly linked to the notorious Eastsider’s own misdeeds. They called it a “spillover effect.” Said Crowder of the jury’s responsibility to compartmentalize the District Attorney’s arguments against each man: “It was impossible for any human being to keep the defendants separate.” By the end of the proceedings, Mize and Medinilla came off as most directly responsible for Carachure’s death.
All three lawyers also stressed that the testimony relayed by witnesses on the stand couldn’t be trusted, as the witnesses had either shown a propensity to lie or had taken plea deals with the prosecution.
Deputy District Attorney Hans Almgren countered that all of the statements provided during the four-week-long trial were corroborated by evidence, both forensic and circumstantial. He called the “spillover effect” theory “absurd,” explaining the jury was instructed nearly two dozen times on the proper ways to consider and weigh evidence.
Almgren also pointed to the fact that the jury chose to not convict the three on attempted murder charges (Carachure’s friends were attacked alongside him when he was killed), indicating jury members were clear on the law and gave the case careful consideration.
Judge Anderson sided with Almgren and denied the motions for a retrial. At the end of the hearing, he spoke to Medinilla, Nava, and Diaz as a group: “Gentlemen, I hope each of you is able to come to terms with what happened, and it ultimately changes your direction down the road and allows you to make something out of your lives. I wish you luck.”