Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction of Man Who Murdered Neighbor
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed a first degree murder conviction for the knife slaying of the defendant’s neighbor in the Candlewood Country Club neighborhood near Whittier.
Div. Four, in an unpublished opinion Friday by Justice J. Gary Hastings, rejected claims that prosecutors withheld evidence that might have exculpated Brandon Pacheco, who was 21 years of age at the time of the August 2001 slaying of 22-year-old Anthony Rico.
Pacheco and Rico lived about six houses away from each other. Witnesses said Pacheco, who was also convicted of first degree burglary, entered the Rico home, stabbed the victim multiple times, and was chased by relatives of Rico who pummeled him before police arrived.
Witnesses said Pacheco and his victim had once been friends, but had grown apart after Pacheco began abusing drugs and alcohol. At the sentencing hearing, Jesus Rico, a brother of the victim, read a letter that he had written after the killing, using his brother’s voice.
Addressing the defendant, Jesus Rico read:
“To this very day I still wonder exactly what it was I did to you to make you feel I didn’t deserve the right to continue on in life.
“Could you please tell me at what point our friendship ended and your pure hatred for me began....
“You’ve turned out to be quite a man, a man who is so big and bad you had to sneak attack me from behind, a man half your weight and size, from behind with a knife, a man who constantly pounded his younger brother for simply hanging out with mine.
“I admit I was drawn to the light that led me to heaven, but here was a point between heaven and earth when I was able to turn around and see everything and every one from above. In those minutes I was able to watch my brother...outsmart you in a matter of minutes; hunt you down and give the big bad murderer exactly what I felt he deserved....
“Even though it was not in my nature to condone this type of behavior, considering you had just slammed a knife into my flesh continuously, I couldn’t help but smile.”
In imposing a 26-year-to-life sentence, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Cowell urged that the defendant never be paroled. He called the crime, for which no explanation was offered by the defendant, “incomprehensible” in light of Pacheco’s former friendship with the victim.
Pacheco’s court-appointed appellate lawyer, R. Clayton Seaman, argued that the state violated Brady v. Maryland by not disclosing whether there was a match between DNA found on the murder weapon and samples in the state DNA databank.
But Hastings, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed with Deputy Attorneys General William T. Harter and Kenneth N. Sokoler that there was no Brady violation because the defense was correctly told that the knife had DNA that did not belong to the defendant or the victim.
Even if there had been a match with DNA in the state database, Hastings continued, there would have been no Brady violation because there was no reasonable probability the evidence would have resulted in a more favorable verdict.
The proof that Pacheco killed Rico with the particular knife was “overwhelming,” the justice said, citing—among other evidence—witnesses who testified that Pacheco had threatened the victim previously, as well as those who saw him run out of the Rico home with what appeared to be blood on his hands and wearing a T-shirt that was later determined to have the victim’s blood on it.
The case is People v. Pacheco, B162216.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company