In July 2007, 16-year-old Lorenzo Carachure was the victim of a homicide, and finally, almost three years later, testimonies have concluded and the closing arguments have begun. Defendants Bryan Medinilla, Raul Diaz, and Ricardo Nava are each being charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder, and street terrorism. Ruben Mize is being charged with the same, plus an additional count of attempted murder for his alleged involvement in the assault of Prospero Sotelo.
Before the closing arguments came jury instruction, in which the judge laid out various options and types of charges — what may be considered and what certain terms mean. The jury was instructed to prove that the homicide was unlawful, prove the defendants were not acting in imperfect self-defense, and whether there was a specific intent — in addition to many other factors. They also need to prove that there was an assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon, that the defendants tried to commit murder or attempted to, and that a reasonable person would know the outcome of the situation.
Almgren began his closing arguments with a picture of Lorenzo Carachure projected on a screen, an open reminder of how young the victim was. “I know it’s hard for people to relate,” said Almgren, acknowledging that the members of the jury likely don’t have much in common with the victim or defendants — such as age. Almgren got straight to the point, “He was murdered,” he said of Carachure, “… it has been proven.”
Almgren explained that the court does not need to prove that the defendants were members of a gang, but only that they participated in an active street gang. The tape recorded by informant Chris Diaz of his car ride with his cousin, defendant Ruben Mize, was played for the court. On the tape the jury could hear Mize’s discussion of the murder of Lorenzo Carachure, referred to as “Nemo,” and also of the attempted murder of Prospero Sotelo. Mize talked about the “kill shot” to Carachure’s throat, and mentions him being hit with a carjack. “There’s no way he could fight back,” Mize said. “It was like he was asleep.” When asked how he felt, and if he had an adrenaline rush, Mize replied, “No, just like I feel right now.” Almgren explained that when Chris Diaz decided to testify, he was not being paid. When asked why he did it, Diaz allegedly replied that it was the “right thing to do.”
Two rap songs written and recorded by Mize were played, the lyrics expressing violent urges, dedication to the Eastside gang, and willingness to kill or die for his gang. “I haven’t killed yet, but I have the heart to do a 187 homicide,” Mize rapped in the recording. In a song titled “Homicidal Thoughts,” he expressed that his enemies are targets, implying to Almgren that Mize was willing to kill or assault members of his rival gang.
Almgren explained a crime and/or the outcome of it being “foreseeable” and “natural and probable.” According to Almgren, the death or attempted murder of Carachure was foreseeable and natural and probable to the defendants. Almgren said that they all got in the car, showed weapons, and knew they were heading over into rival gang territory — these factors would lead a person to have an understanding of what was going to happen and how. The “kill shot” was foreseeable, said Almgren, the stabbing and death was natural and probable, and the stabbing and conduct was foreseeable. These factors contribute to the severity of the crime committed.
“This wasn’t a self-defense situation,” said Almgren. “This was a planned murder.” Almgren then presented the way he believes the events transpired: the defendants got out of the car and ran with knives toward the three Westsiders. Diaz hit Lorenzo with a carjack, knocking him out. Mize and Medinilla stabbed him in the neck and stomach before running away. Nava, who had been occupied with stabbing the other two Westsiders came back over and stabbed Lorenzo.
Almgren reviewed many witnesses’ testimonies, using a PowerPoint slide for each, piecing the stories together to form one explanation — in which all four defendants are guilty. The accounts given by friends, girlfriends, doctors, detectives, relatives, and bystanders to the crime were recapped for the jury, clarifying confusion that may have arisen from a trial in which there are four defendants.
To hurt a rival, was malice, said Almgren, “What can you take away from them that they can never get back? Their life. It’s sick.” All of the defendants took direct steps in the murder of Lorenzo Carachure according to Almgren, and all four should be charged with murder in the first degree. “The law requires that I prove certain elements to you,” Almgren explained. “That has been done.”
Almgren will have a second chance to speak to the jury after the attorneys of the four defendants present their closing arguments.