WESTMINSTER — A Superior Court jury this week convicted Martin Rene Rodriguez of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the shooting death of a 17-year-old rival gang member.
Rodriguez, 22, is the second defendant to be convicted of the murder of Rosendo Ibarra. In November, Mario Pena, 16, was found guilty of the same crimes. The trial of a third defendant, Joseph Kehler, 22, started Thursday.
Ibarra was was shot twice in the head on April 30 while talking at a pay telephone. Prosecutors say the shooting was the result of a longstanding feud between two gangs from the barrios of Big Stanton in Stanton and La Colonia Independencia in unincorporated areas near Anaheim.
According to court testimony, Rodriguez and four other members of the Big Stanton gang drove into La Colonia intending to shoot any gang member from that neighborhood in retaliation for an earlier shooting. Ibarra was a random victim, shot by Rodriguez because he stood alone on a dark night on enemy turf, the prosecution said.
"This isn't Rene Rodriguez against the victim," Deputy Dist. Atty. Tom Avdeef told the jury. "This is a drive-by."
"They spotted a La Colonia, not a name, a La Colonia," Avdeef said.
Another member of the Big Stanton gang told police in two taped interviews that Rodriguez had bragged of the killing. However, during the trial, Alfredo Ramirez, an admitted heroin addict, testified that he lied to police.
Rodriguez's attorney, Robert Chatterton, said Wednesday that he was disappointed with the jury's verdict because it was based largely upon Ramirez's taped interviews.
"If those tapes were removed from the case, I don't think any jury would convict Mr. Rodriguez," Chatterton said, adding that he thinks Rodriguez "should consider an appeal."
Rodriguez is scheduled to return to court Feb. 20 for sentencing. He faces a maximum of 27 years to life in prison.