Jesus Aguirre, an Eastside Buena Park gangster, was 16 years old when he participated in the ridiculously stupid, 2010 attempted murder of a rival hoodlum, lost his trial, got sentenced to life plus 25 years and, from a California prison hellhole, has to watch his distraught family pray an appeal would find him wrongly convicted.
But late this month, a three-justice panel at the California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana backed the righteousness of the conviction, declined invitations to overturn the jury's verdicts and found no trouble that a minor had been sentenced so severely by Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg.
"The evidence shows Aguirre acted with the requisite intent and took direct but ineffectual acts to commit the attempted murder and the assault with a deadly weapon," opined justices David A. Thompson and Richard Aronson after rejecting as baseless most of the arguments by Aguirre lawyer William Kopeny.
But the panel reversed the sentence based on it's conclusion that Aguirre's trial lawyer provided "ineffective counsel" at the punishment stage. While not necessarily calling for a reduced punishment, they asked Froeberg to conduct a new sentencing hearing and issue specific findings so they review the merits of his decision.
Under Froeberg's original sentencing that includes the possibility for parole, the defendant–who is now 20 years old–would get his first chance to seek release from prison at the age of 49.
Justice Richard D. Fybel penned a concurring opinion, stating that he believes a minor sentenced to a life term in prison in a non-homicide case raises constitutional issues of "cruel and unusual punishment."
But does that mean he backs a reduced sentence for Aguirre?
Fybel wrote that it's "premature" to know the answer until he studies Froeberg's upcoming sentencing analysis.
Aguirre–who'd been spotted with fellow Eastside Buena Park gangsters nearly three dozen times before the shooting, wears the gang's tattoos, uses a gang moniker and refused chances to distance himself from that criminal group–is presently housed in one of the state's most hardcore prisons: Pelican Bay.
Ignoring the surreptitious recordings police made of the defendant unwittingly confessing to the crime in his jail cell after his arrest, his family and friends created a Facebook page to protest the conviction and punishment as unjust.
If the Aguirre family wants to continue to fight the case, their next stop is at the California Supreme Court.
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.