The brother of an Eastsider accused of killing 16-year-old Lorenzo Carachure in 2007 took the stand Thursday, giving emotional testimony against his younger brother and three other defendants.
Robert Martinez, 23, himself a member of the Eastside gang, said he was sleeping the night of the murder when his brother, Ruben Mize, and their friend Bryan Medinilla woke him up, and — while he couldn’t remember who said what — told him they thought they killed somebody. Martinez said his brother asked him to take the two somewhere to get rid of knives. He did just that, he said, eventually driving them to Goleta Beach. He said he never actually saw knives, however, and never saw them actually throw the alleged weapons, because he was turning the car around at the time. While Mize and Medinilla are accused of actually stabbing the victim, two others — Raul Diaz and Ricardo Nava — are also implicated in the murder, along with two attempted murder charges.
Martinez testified that at the time, however, he was smoking marijuana and methamphetamine every day since being stabbed in an incident a month earlier. On cross-examination, he admitted the drugs made things fuzzy for him, and his memory was often hazy. He also would eat less and go for days without sleeping while on meth, which also blurred his recollections, he said.
Much of Martinez’s testimony was used by prosecutor Hans Almgren to show the defendants’ involvement in the Eastside gang. Going through more than 50 photos, Almgren had Martinez explain hand signs that people in the photos were doing, and to identify people when possible. Many of the photos showed the underaged defendants drinking, and most pictured them showing off tattoos or flashing gang signs with known gang members.
Mize has the large initials “TRS” (for Traviesos, a sub-clique of the Eastside gang) on his chest that, his brother said, was tattoed there when he was 14 or 15 years old, and he also has a large “SB” on his stomach. Above his right eye is another “TRS” tattoo, and he has “Eastside” on one side of his head as well as “Santa Bruta” on the other. Medinilla has “KSR” (which stands for “Krazies,” another Eastside sub-clique) tattooed along his collarbone, as well as a large “K” next to his right eye, among other tattoos. Pictures of all these tattoos were shown to jurors Thursday.
When Almgren asked Martinez whether he was still a gang member, he replied, “No I’m not, because I’m testifying.” He said he could get beat up, stabbed, or possibly even killed for giving his testimony in court. In exchange for telling the truth on the stand, Martinez will have an accessory to murder charge against him in this case dropped, and he will plead guilty to attempted murder with a gang enhancement in another case, the maximum sentence for which is eight years, four months. Martinez also worked out a plea deal in federal court in exchange for his testimony, and he will serve time in that case as well.
The same goes for Emilio Mora, who was present at the scene of the murder, and has already pleaded guilty to crimes related to the attack. He took the stand prior to Martinez and testified against the four defendants on trial for murder.
Looking slimmer than he did in his booking photo from 2008, Mora — dressed in an orange jumpsuit and shackles around his ankles and wrists — said he was at Pennywise Market when he decided to join Mize, Medinilla, Nava, and Diaz to cause trouble. At the scene, he said, he saw both Mize and Medinilla stab Carachure in the stomach during the assault. He said the stabbings began after Raul Diaz hit Carachure over the head with a carjack.
Mora, now 22, was jumped into the Eastside gang when he was 17. Speaking in a soft voice, he told of how he knew the defendants, and even jumped one of them into the gang. Mora said when he was first arrested on May 6, 2008, he told a detective who was interviewing him “part of the truth” about what had happened that night, but lied about his involvement. He said from the start that he was a lookout during the attack, but hadn’t been involved. His story changed, he explained, when he worked out a deal with prosecutors and realized he had to tell the truth.
That’s when he told Almgren and Detective Gary Siegel that he had never been a lookout, but was involved in the fight the entire time. He said the only two armed with knives during the altercation were Mize and Medinilla, and Nava was just fighting with his hands. Mora, who admitted to telling five different stories about what happened that night, said on the stand that in fact he had been fighting and that just before running away he threw a bicycle on the victim as he lay on the ground after being stabbed. He said he didn’t know why he threw the bike, but that he was “just pumped up.”
He also testified that he had been in more than a dozen fights with Westsiders, and that people had been armed, but this was the first time knives were used. He said he didn’t intend to kill anyone when he went to the Westside, and he didn’t think the others did either.
Mora took a plea deal earlier this year in which he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder with gang enhancement, along with an additional charge of being a member of a criminal street gang. As part of the deal, he agreed to testify in court. Should he tell the truth, he is facing a sentence of 19 years and eight months in state prison. Mora explained that it was pretty hard for him to name names, because when a gang member does so against his fellow gang members, “You get beat up, killed, or jumped.”
The trial continues Tuesday morning, June1, at 9 a.m. in Dept. 14.