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Trial of 4th Man in Spearing Death of 17-Year-Old Begins : Courts: Prosecutor calls it a case of group responsibility, while defense says it's about 'guilt by association.'


SANTA ANA — As the trial began Monday for one of six young men charged with fatally spearing a San Clemente High School student in the head, a prosecutor told jurors the case would focus on group responsibility, while the defense said the case was about unfairly holding one person accountable for the acts of others.

Juan Alcocer, 20, of San Clemente, looked on quietly during opening statements in Orange County Superior Court, where he and five others have been charged with killing 17-year-old Steve Woods last October during a gang attack at a San Clemente beach.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary Paer told jurors the evidence will prove Alcocer is guilty of murder, based on the legal theory that all who participated in the deadly assault are responsible for the outcome, regardless of their individual roles.

"This is about a group attack, this is about group responsibility," Paer said.

But defense attorney Gene E. Dorney told jurors he does not believe there is evidence to prove his client launched the fatal object, a paint-roller rod, and said he believes the evidence will prove Alcocer is not guilty of murder.

"This is about how responsible a person . . . is for the deeds of other people," Dorney said. "It's about guilt by association."

Three reputed gang members or associates have already been convicted in the Oct. 15, 1993, attack and await sentencing. Two others await trial. The killing took place as Woods and his friends were pelted with blocks of wood, bottles, rocks and paint-roller rods as they tried to leave Calafia Beach County Park.

During an earlier trial, two of the defendants claimed they attacked the teen-agers in self-defense because they believed they were about to be attacked themselves. But a judge rejected that argument and said the defendants instigated the tragedy.

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