Gangs' shootout trial can go ahead

This story appeared in The Bee on Aug. 4, 2004.

A judge on Tuesday refused to throw out an indictment against two men who face murder charges stemming from a shootout between rival gangs, Dead Man's Curb and the Northside Boyz, in northwest Modesto three years ago.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley said a criminal grand jury received enough evidence to proceed to trial, despite misconduct allegations raised by defense attorneys Frank Carson and Ramon Magaña.

The defense attorneys said Deputy District Attorney Doug Maner refused to relay exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, as required. Maner said he did nothing wrong, and the judge agreed.

"Mr. Maner did attempt to do what was required, and more so," Ashley said.

Domingo Martinez, 23, Robert David Rodela, 23, and Vincent Lopez, 25, are charged with killing 18-year-old Orville Rosado, who was hit in the face with a bullet during the April 6, 2001, shootout.

The shootings occurred just after 11 p.m. in the 2700 block of Janna Avenue.

Martinez and Rodela sat quietly throughout the proceedings Tuesday. Lopez is in custody in Texas and fighting extradition. A trial is to begin Jan. 31.

The grand jury handed up indictments on Oct. 11, 2002, after Judge Al Girolami threw out a Sept. 13, 2001, indictment because Maner asked a court reporter to leave during part of the proceedings, resulting in a gap in the transcripts.

Carson and Magaña said their clients did not get a fair hearing before the second grand jury because Maner refused to relay a sealed envelope to the jury foreman.

In a letter to the grand jury foreman, Carson warned the panel to view statements from Modesto police Detective Al Brocchini with caution and said that Brocchini has a history of coercing witnesses to obtain statements.

Carson also urged the panel to be leery of one witness, and call Gerardo Jaquez to the stand because he saw only one car drive up before the shootings started. Prosecutors contend that two cars were involved in the drive-by shooting, with Martinez as the lead driver.

Carson and Magaña said prosecutors have a duty to tell the panel about exculpatory evidence, though they do not have to present it in detail. The grand jury may investigate further if it wishes to do so.

The attorneys also said the panel was biased, because Maner did not excuse a grand juror who said his cousin was at the scene on the night of the shooting.

"Mr. Maner had control of this," Carson said. "He was put on notice and he proceeded at his peril."

Maner said he warned Carson in advance that he would not hand over the "mystery envelope."

"I was loath to submit it to the grand jury, not knowing what's inside," he said.

Maner also said the jury pool was not biased, and insisted that there is no evidence to suggest that Brocchini coerces statements or manipulates evidence.

The prosecutor noted that he put Jaquez on the witness stand, as Carson and Magaña requested in separate letters, along with about 20 other witnesses.

"There's a wealth of evidence to support the grand jury's indictment," Maner said.