Jurors said overwhelming evidence against a 16-year-old girl charged with killing her mother and stepfather left them with little choice but to find her guilty Friday of first degree-murder.
Several members of the Compton jury said they were unconvinced by Cynthia Alvarez's testimony this week that she was helpless to stop her parents from being killed by her boyfriend.
The jurors, who declined to give their names, said notes that Alvarez wrote to her boyfriend while he was hiding inside her Compton home shortly before the October 2011 killings showed she played an active role in the crimes. One of the ungrammatical notes read: "What about if she going to her bed. Can you kill her." Another said, "you do it."
One juror, a 59-year-old air conditioning maintenance man for the Air Force, said he was struck by the girl's admission that she had signaled to Gallardo when her mother moved from the kitchen to the bedroom. The signal, he said, was clearly the cue for her boyfriend, Giovanni Gallardo, to strike.
"You admitted right there that you told him to do it,” the juror said outside the courthouse. "I couldn’t get past it.”
He also pointed to Alvarez's admission that she and Gallardo had driven in her mother's Jeep to buy supplies for a Halloween party with her mother's decomposing body in the back of the vehicle.
“That showed me you had no remorse for what you did,” he said.
Another juror, a 47-year-old janitor, agreed.
“If you’re innocent, you’re not going to ride around for three days with your momma in the back of the car,” he said.
They also rejected defense arguments that the girl suffered from a language processing disorder and was in special-education classes, noting that her IQ was 109, in the high range of average.
The jurors were critical of the defense emphasis on the abuse Alvarez alleged she suffered at the hands of her stepfather and mother. The girl said she had been sodomized by her stepfather, Jose Lara, in 2008 and was molested by him for about a decade. She also said her mother often beat her with a belt.
One juror said the abuse provided a possible motive for Alvarez to murder her parents. Others said it appeared to be an attempt to distract jurors from the evidence.
"I didn’t kill my [mother] and she whooped me,” the janitor said.
"Her representation ... just kept insisting on the abuse," the Air Force worker said. "The defense dropped the ball."
Jurors were also critical of Deputy Public Defender Carole Telfer's decision to put her client on the stand.
"The biggest piece of evidence for both the prosecution and the defense was her own words," a third juror said. "If she had had a better defense, it would have helped her a lot."
Telfer declined to comment.
Jurors also found true several special circumstance allegations, including that Alvarez lay in wait for the victims and used a baseball bat as a deadly weapon on her stepfather. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month and faces a term of life in prison.
The murder trial for Gallardo, who is now 18, is scheduled to begin next week.
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