Monday, October 6, 2003
C.A. Upholds Sentence of Life Without Parole for Teenager in Long Beach Robbery-Murder
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district Friday upheld a life-without-parole sentence for a teenager who shot a man to death during a Long Beach robbery in July 2000 and was apprehended after committing another robbery three months later.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Lord did not abuse his discretion when he imposed the maximum sentence on Augustine Zamora, who was 17 years old when Jose Sanchez was robbed and shot outside the La Guadalupina market, Justice Richard Mosk wrote in an unpublished opinion for Div. Five.
The evidence, Mosk wrote, justified the conclusion that there was “nothing about Zamora or his crimes that would justify leniency.”
Zamora was convicted of the murder largely on the testimony of Luis Galaviz, who was sitting in his car with Sanchez outside the market, and on statements made by Sanchez before he slipped into a coma. Sanchez described the robbery and shooting and gave a description of the shooter and his companion.
Galaviz said Zamora and the other man approached the car, and that the defendant held a gun to Sanchez’s head and demanded money.
After Sanchez gave him money, Galaviz testified, the defendant demanded money from Galaviz. The witness said he had no money, but gave Zamora his jewelry.
The defendant then demanded more money from Sanchez, saying he must have more because he cashed a check in the market. Sanchez said he had no more money, and Zamora shot him in the neck, Galaviz told the jury.
Sanchez was rushed to the hospital after the shooting, but soon lapsed into a coma and died seven months later. A medical expert testified that the bullet lacerated his carotid artery, causing irreversible brain injury.
Ruben Barraza, one of the victims of the September robbery, which took place outside a Long Beach church, testified that he and another man were seated in his car when they were approached by Zamora and two other men. Zamora held a gun to his face and demanded money and his car stereo, he testified.
Barraza said Zamora hit him with the gun after he was unable to remove the stereo, and that one of Zamora’s companions stole his passenger’s money, wallet, watch, and cellular telephone at knifepoint.
Jurors found Zamora guilty of first degree murder, with a robbery special circumstance, and four counts of robbery, and found him to be armed with a firearm during the crimes. Lord—who had discretion to sentence him to 25 years to life or to life without parole for the murder—imposed the upper term, plus a 25-year-to-life enhancement under the “10-20-Life” law and concurrent terms for the robberies.
Lord explained his decision to impose the upper term by noting that the murder was cruel, callous, planned, and violent and that Zamora had a prior criminal history and was on probation at the time of the murder, in addition to having committed the September robbery
While Zamora’s youth might be considered a mitigating factor, the judge said, the Legislature had already taken that into account by precluding the death penalty when the defendant is less than 18 years of age at the time of the crime.
The Court of Appeal panel rejected arguments by the defendant’s court-appointed appellate attorney, Edward H. Schulman, that Sanchez died as a result of negligent medical care and that Lord erred in admitting into evidence the statements made by Sanchez after the shooting.
Mosk explained that for a crime victim’s medical care to be considered an intervening cause of death, it must be “grossly improper.” While Sanchez developed a bacterial infection in the hospital—resulting from the insertion of a catheter to evacuate urine—there was no showing of impropriety, Mosk said, adding that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the gunshot wound was at least a concurrent cause of death.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company