Friday, January 10, 2003
Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction of Inglewood Gang Member for Murder
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An Inglewood gang member’s murder conviction and life sentence for the killing of a Los Angeles police officer and a teenager have been upheld by this district’s Court of Appeal.
A three-member panel on Tuesday rejected the arguments of Jaime Mares that the trial court should have instructed the jury on second degree murder and that Hispanics were underrepresented on the grand jury that indicted him.
Mares, now 25, was convicted in May 2001 of the Nov. 29, 1998, shooting deaths of LAPD Officer Brian Brown, 27, and 18-year-old Gerardo Sernas, a bystander who was shot in the aftermath of an angry gang showdown at a Playa Del Rey wedding.
The groom’s brother was a member of Inglewood 13 gang, and the bride’s brother was a member of the rival Culver City Boys.
Police responded after hearing the shots that apparently killed Sernas.
Prosecutors said the shots that killed the officer were fired by Mares’ cohort, Oscar Zatarain, after the two led police on a high-speed pursuit down Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City to an area near Fox Hills Mall. After the car spun out, it ended up facing the patrol car, and shots fired from the two suspects’ car killed Brown.
Zatarain also was killed in the shootout. Mares fled, leading police on another chase that ended near Los Angeles International Airport, where he repeatedly demanded that officers shoot him. He was shot after holding up a black object that appeared to be a gun. It later turned out to be a glove.
In an unpublished opinion, Presiding Justice Roger Boren of Div. Two said Mares’ own account of events did not warrant a second-degree murder instruction from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders.
“The jury had to determine which of two stories was true: whether [Mares] was guilty of nothing since he was merely an innocent person tragically at the wrong place at the wrong time, or whether he was guilty of a premeditated murder committed in the territory of a rival gang as part of a gang payback,” Boren said.
“No other factual scenario was offered by either the prosecution or the defense,” Boren said. “Therefore, even [Mares’] version of the events does not warrant instructing the jury on second degree murder based on express malice, as there was no substantial evidence that [Mares] lacked premeditation and yet somehow still had the requisite ‘deliberate intention’—to kill another person.”
Mares also was convicted of the attempted murder of Sernas’ companion.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company