OAKLAND -- Two men accused of attempted murder for shooting at a group of teenagers last year agreed to plea deals this week in an unusual agreement that was made as a jury was deliberating their case.
The Alameda County District Attorney's office offered Alexander Morales, 31, and Julio Cesar Cordova-Montana, 20, deals in which they both were found guilty of one count of attempted murder for shooting Jesus Marquez, 18, in March 2011 at 87th and Bancroft avenues.
Morales, one of two suspected shooters in the case, agreed to a prison term of 16 years in prison and Cordova-Montana agreed to a term of 7 years. They will be sentenced in October.
Had the jury found Morales guilty of all the charges filed against him, which included a second charge of attempted murder, he could have faced life in prison. Cordova-Montana, the driver of a car that was used in the shooting, could have faced about 12 years in prison.
While offering plea deals is not unusual, the timing of this offer was, as the trial against the two had already concluded and a jury was in the midst of deciding the case.
But the jury had already been meeting for several days when the deal was made, an unscientific indication that it might have been having trouble agreeing on a conviction.
The facts of the case did not provide Deputy District Attorney Luis Marin with an easy argument in trying to convince the jury that the two defendants should be found guilty of
One complication included the fact that a juvenile, Marco Ruiz, had been positively identified as the shooter in the case and that police had found bullet casings at the scene from only one gun.
Ruiz was not tried with the other two defendants because his case was resolved in juvenile court. While the jury was not allowed to consider why Ruiz was not tried with the other two defendants, it could consider the fact that he was never brought to trial as a witness.
In addition, the two defendants were also charged with attempted murder of a second victim who, evidence in the case revealed, might not have been a target of the shooting.
And, police never recovered any gun used in the crime.
Marin declined to comment Friday on why the deal was made.
In closing arguments, Marin argued both defendants should be found guilty of all the charges filed against them. He asked the jury to consider that at least one other witness said he saw two people shooting at the group of teenagers and pointed out that the victim's mother testified that she saw Morales jump out of a car with Ruiz just before the shooting occurred.
Defense attorneys, however, argued that the jury should focus on reasonable doubt and not reward the Oakland Police Department with a conviction even though it conducted a sloppy investigation.
One of those attorneys, Theodore Johnson, who represented Cordova-Montana said Friday that his client took the deal because it remained unclear how the jury would decide the case.
"You never know what a jury is going to do," Johnson said. "It's better to have a bird in a hand than two in the bush."