The fate of a former gang member, on trial for murder in Ventura County Superior Court, was turned over to a jury Tuesday after attorneys tried to cast doubt on each other's witnesses during closing arguments.
Arnel Salagubang, 20, a former member of a Filipino gang called the Satanas, is accused of fatally shooting Manuel (Deadeye) Rodriguez, 20, who allegedly belonged to a rival Latino gang called the Lemonwood Chiques.
The jury deliberated for three hours Tuesday afternoon before retiring. Deliberations are scheduled to resume this morning.
Witnesses have testified that Salagubang used a single-shot, .22-caliber derringer to shoot Rodriguez, who had taunted members of the Satanas with anti-Asian slurs and yelled his gang name at them.
Deputy Dist. Atty. James Ellison told jurors, "Arnel Salagubang showed to his fellow gang members that he had what it takes to be a veterano . . . Arnel Salagubang cold-bloodedly executed Manuel Rodriguez."
Ellison said most of the witnesses corroborated testimony by key prosecution witness Jesse Cortinas.
Cortinas, a 17-year-old Satanas member, testified that he gave the gun to Salagubang, who then shot Rodriguez outside Channel Islands High School on Nov. 22 for insulting and challenging the Satanas.
Cortinas agreed to testify against Salagubang in exchange for escaping an adult murder trial. He pleaded guilty to murder in juvenile court.
But Willard P. Wiksell, Salagubang's court-appointed attorney, attacked Cortinas' testimony, saying Cortinas would only serve 14 months for a murder conviction in juvenile court.
"If the crime of murder or voluntary manslaughter was committed by anyone, then Jesse Cortinas was an accomplice by law," Wiksell said. "The law says that the testimony of an accomplice ought to be viewed with distrust. He has a motive to lie."
Wiksell also said Ellison presented no independent witnesses to testify that Salagubang shot Rodriguez. And he noted the testimony of two bus drivers, who said they did not see Salagubang's car leave the scene after the shooting.
"But let's assume that you believe Mr. Salagubang is the shooter," Wiksell added. Salagubang could have feared for his life and shot Rodriguez, who was known to carry a gun and appeared to be reaching under his car seat just before the shooting, Wiksell said. That would support a manslaughter verdict, he said.
Attorneys, however, showed jurors a Styrofoam mannequin head penetrated by a metal rod, which the coroner's office used to demonstrate the path of the bullet. Wiksell argued that the bullet's angle showed that Rodriguez was reaching under the seat before he was shot, while Ellison said it showed Rodriguez was looking out his car window and arguing with Salagubang.