After three months of trial and just two days of jury deliberation, Eastside gang members Joseph Castro and Isaac Jimenez were found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Ventura gang member Kelly Hunt in 2013. They were also convicted of conspiracy and lying in wait, and will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“I truly believe justice was served,” said prosecutor Kim Siegel. “Everything we saw showed this was a gang murder planned in advance,” said Detective Brian Larson. A number of Santa Barbara police officers and detectives packed Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom as the verdict was read. They shook hands patted each other’s backs when the conviction came down.
Jimenez’s defense attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said he and his client were both “extremely disappointed” by the verdict. Bilu said he would be appealing Jimenez’s conviction based on problems with pretrial motions and “issues at the trial itself.” He declined to elaborate. Castro’s attorney, Michael Hanley, was not immediately available for comment.
Out in the hallway, friends and family of the victim and offenders let loose with the emotions they had to stifle in the courtroom. Hunt’s parents hugged and cried with their relatives, and thanked Siegel and Larson for their hard work. Castro’s and Jimenez’s supporters wept with one another as well, with a younger woman wailing out in despair.
Siegel said Hunt’s family was relieved by the verdict, but are still in pain from their loss.
During her closing arguments last week, Siegel said both men exhibited a “callous, calculated disregard for a person’s life” as Hunt was shot four times from behind. She stressed how the murder was methodically planned and coldly carried out, with numerous witnesses describing the slow cadence of gunshots on Olive Street. “Boom… boom… boom… boom…,” she intoned.
Castro has a pending felony case against him for allegedly bringing narcotics into County Jail. Both he and Jimenez are facing charges as well for a separate 2013 incident during which Castro allegedly shot a gun provided by Jimenez at a group of rival gang members.
Castro will be sentenced on the murder conviction April 5, Jimenez on March 7.