A state appeals court panel on Wednesday upheld the convictions of two men for killing a woman who had testified in the murder of trial of one of their fellow gang members.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that there was insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation by Ramiro Alvarez and Rodney Coronel Perez, who were convicted of the May 11, 2009, shooting death of 24-year-old Roberta Romero.
She was driving from West Covina to Pomona and shot three times—once each in the head, chest and back—slightly over a year after testifying as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of Ralph Flores, who belonged to the same gang as Perez and Alvarez.
Flores was sentenced to death in September 2008 after being convicted of four murders.
In a 15-page ruling, the appellate justices noted that Romero was killed "in revenge for her testimony" and that jurors could reasonably infer that it would serve as "a warning to others who might consider testifying against members of the gang."
"Shortly after arriving at a secluded residential area, they put on their gloves, took Romero out of the car and walked her to a cul-de-sac where they forced her to kneel on the ground and shot her execution-style -- at close range in the head, heart and back," the justices noted.
The panel found that there was "substantial evidence that both Alvarez and Perez personally and intentionally shot Romero," noting that forensic evidence is "consistent with the conclusion that Romero suffered three bullet wounds from two different caliber guns."
Alvarez and Perez were convicted in April 2012 of first-degree murder, with jurors finding true the special circumstance allegations of murder of a witness to a crime and murder to further the activities of a criminal street gang.
The two were sentenced in December 2012 to life in prison without the
possibility of parole. Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty after
two juries deadlocked on whether to recommend a death sentence or life in
prison without the possibility of parole.