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Thread: UPDATED AR: Gang Affiliation Not Relevant, Attorneys Argue

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  1. #1
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    UPDATED AR: Gang Affiliation Not Relevant, Attorneys Argue

    Gang Affiliation Not Relevant, Attorneys Argue
    Motions sealed in road rage case opened Thursday

    This article was published on Thursday, December 13, 2007 7:10 PM CST in News
    By Robin Mero

    Records unsealed Thursday reveal attorneys will argue a capital murder defendant's past gang membership shouldn't be allowed as evidence when he's tried in the May 2006 road rage murder of a man at a stoplight in Lowell.

    Manuel Enrique Camacho moved from California to Northwest Arkansas to get away from gang relationships, argue his attorneys, Tim Buckley and Kent McLemore. Camacho has tattoos prosecutors say tie him to a gang, but that evidence is irrelevant and not admissible in court, the attorneys say.

    The motion was filed in June regarding the case against Camacho, 27, and Serafin Sandoval-Vega, 20, who are accused in the shooting death of Daniel Francis, 32, of Rogers. It remained under seal until Thursday along with other motions in the case.

    An attorney for The Morning News argued in August to have all motions in the case opened. Keith said in October he'd remove a blanket seal of new motions and he would open to the public a hearing to consider separating cases against the two men. That hearing was to take place Thursday but was reset to Feb. 8.

    Defense attorneys renewed their motions Thursday to seal documents and conduct some future hearings in private. Keith again denied those motions and agreed to open two motions he had previously sealed.

    "What I've been balancing is the public versus private aspects of a person getting a fair trial," Keith said Thursday. "There is a community interest that must be addressed as well. In order for the community to know whether the defendants are getting a fair trial, they have to know what the issues are."

    Keith plans to begin jury selection for a six-week trial July 8.

    Three people face felony charges in the May 6, 2006, death of Francis, a diesel mechanic who had just finished work and was a passenger in a car driven by his co-worker northbound on U.S. 71B. Three shots were fired at the car and one bullet struck Francis in the back of his head, police said.

    Francis died two days later after being removed from life support that allowed organ donation.

    Sandoval-Vega, a resident alien of the United States, is accused of shooting and killing Francis. Sandoval-Vega is charged with capital murder and committing a terroristic act.

    Police believe Manuel Enrique Camacho, 27, drove that day and encouraged Sandoval-Vega to pull the trigger. Camacho is charged with being an accomplice to capital murder and accomplice to a terroristic act. He is an illegal immigrant, according to court documents.

    Roxana Hernandez, 23, is charged with being an accomplice to capital murder and an accomplice to a terroristic act. Prosecutors could seek a life sentence in her case. She is a resident alien. Her case will be tried separately.

    Defense attorneys will argue Feb. 8 to separate the cases.

    A second motion unsealed Thursday refers to concern the three defendants will present defenses "antagonistic to the others." Sandoval-Vega, for instance, says Camacho fired a weapon from the driver's window that killed Francis, the motion states. An extraordinary amount of evidence will be presented and will be confusing for the jury to sort, the motion says.

    Prosecutors haven't decided whether they prefer to try the cases together or separately, said Drew Ledbetter, senior trial attorney with the prosecutor's office.

    Defense attorneys hired specialists for mental evaluations, which aren't complete. Attorneys haven't said if they plan to formally raise issues of competency and mental disease. Testing has suggested Sandoval-Vega is mentally retarded, they said. Arkansas law prohibits execution of a mentally retarded defendant.


    • May 2006
    Two men and a woman are arrested and charged in a May 2006 road rage murder. The men face the death penalty, and the woman life in prison, if convicted. Police say gang affiliation is suspected for one defendant, Manuel Camacho, 25.
    • July 17
    Court proceedings are conducted in Senior Circuit Judge Tom Keith’s chambers or at his bench, excluding the public and media. Keith says all new motions will be filed under seal to avoid prejudice against defendants.
    • Aug. 2
    Keith signs an order closing some future hearings to the public, saying he is concerned that inflammatory topics might prevent a fair trial.
    • Aug. 10
    Newspaper attorneys argue the public knows many details about the backgrounds of the defendants — including the allegation of gang membership — so sealing documents and closing pretrial hearings is unnecessary.
    • Oct. 29
    Keith announces a hearing regarding separation of the two men’s cases will be open to the public. That hearing is planned Feb. 8.
    • Dec. 13
    Keith orders previously sealed motions be opened. He reserves the date of July 8 to begin jury selection for a six-week trial. ... adrage.txt
    Last edited by Newmexican; 09-01-2012 at 11:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie
    Most of the MS 13, 18th street and various other gang members fall into that magic age group that Mr. Obama has decided need to stay here.

    Ark. judge denies inmate's request to void plea

    Benton County Daily Record
    Aug. 31, 2012

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A prison inmate has lost an attempt to void his guilty plea to capital murder and life sentence in the 2006 shooting death of a motorist.

    Benton County Circuit Court Judge Jon Comstock ruled Thursday against Serafin Sandoval-Vega, who was accused of killing Daniel Francis.

    The Benton County Daily Record (No new trial for convicted killer | NWAonline) reports Sandoval-Vega was seeking to overturn his conviction and sentence on grounds he received ineffective assistance from his attorneys.

    The Arkansas Supreme Court remanded the case to determine whether Sandoval-Vega was competent to stand trial when he pleaded guilty. A mental evaluation conducted by forensic psychologist Robin Ross concluded Sandoval-Vega was competent to stand trial and didn't have a mental disease or defect when he entered the plea.

    Sandoval-Vega acted as his own attorney in preparing the appeal.
    Information from: Benton County Daily Record, NWAonline - Northwest Arkansas News - Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville

    Sandoval-Vega, Serafin
    Note: Further information may be obtained by contacting the detaining agency.
    Detainer Date Detainer Agency Charge Type Date Cancelled
    02/27/2009 U.S. IMMIGRATION & C Unknown DIMM
    Arkansas Department of Correction
    Archived articles:Most have beed scrubbed.
    Manuel Camacho/Serafin Vega Plead Guilty in 2006 AR. Murder, Sentenced to LWOP « on: July 06, 2008, 10:10:33 PM »

    Manuel Camacho and Serafin Sandoval-Vega plan to blame each other when their capital murder trial starts Tuesday in Benton County Circuit Court.

    Camacho, 27, and Sandoval-Vega, 21, could be sentenced to death in the May 6, 2006, highway shooting of Daniel Francis.

    Sandoval-Vega, who prosecutors say pulled the trigger, is charged with capital murder, while Camacho, the driver, is charged as an accomplice to capital murder. Roxana Hernandez, the front-seat passenger, also is charged as an accomplice, but her trial hasn’t been set.

    After their arrests, the three blamed each other, and that theme will continue during the unusual simultaneous trial of Camacho and Sandoval-Vega, attorneys said.

    “He didn’t do it,” said Tim Buckley, an attorney for Camacho. “That’s his defense. The prosecution alleges [it was ] some sort of gang initiation, but we’ll show it was more of a road-rage situation where Sandoval-Vega acted independently and Roxana Hernandez had a role, too.” Hernandez, 23, could receive a life sentence. She’s agreed to testify against the two men.

    She initially denied knowing anything about the shooting, then said Sandoval-Vega did it, according to an affidavit.

    Sandoval-Vega confessed, saying Hernandez pulled Camacho’s gun from the glove box and handed it him in the back seat of the black Honda Civic. Camacho told him to shoot as they traveled north on U. S. 71 Business near Pleasant Grove Road, Sandoval-Vega said.

    Since then, Sandoval-Vega’s attorneys say there’s evidence that Camacho fired the gun from the driver’s seat, according to a court motion.

    Camacho told police he had no idea that Sandoval-Vega had a gun in the car and knew nothing of any plans for a shooting.

    The incident began after Camacho began aggressively driving around a car that pulled out in front of him on U. S. 71 B in Springdale. Witnesses told police that Camacho drove in front of the car, driven by Tracy Stith, and hit the brakes.

    The two drivers continued north even after the shooting. Stith followed Camacho’s car for a while, relaying information to police before seeing that Francis, his friend and co-worker, had been shot.

    Camacho, Sandoval-Vega and Hernandez were arrested later that day at a convenience store in Bentonville. Before police caught them, the three had stopped to buy ammunition for a. 357-caliber pistol at a Wal-Mart in Rogers.

    Circuit Judge Tom Keith, who has been on the bench more than two decades, said this is his first case where two murder defendants will be tried at the same time.

    Keith earlier denied requests by defense attorneys to try the men separately, saying he’s confident neither will be unfairly prejudiced.

    Keith has set aside 24 days over six weeks for the trial, which will run Tuesday-Friday each week. This trial will take longer because there are two defendants and because attorneys need time to carefully choose the jury, given the chance jurors might have to decide on handing down the death penalty.

    Attorneys already have eliminated dozens of potential jurors by reviewing questionnaires. Prospects were asked things such as if they know people involved in the case and their opinions on the death penalty.

    About 90 people are left in the jury pool that will report to Keith’s courtroom Tuesday morning for interviews and possible selection, which could take up to two weeks.

    More than 80 witnesses are subpoenaed for the trial, but probably not all will end up testifying, attorneys said.

    Al Valdez, a California expert on gangs, will testify that Francis’ shooting has the tell-tale signs of a gang initiation. Camacho has gang tattoos and was deeply involved in gangs when he lived in Southern California, Valdez has said.

    Defense witness Brian Contreras is expected to counter that claim, saying initiation shootings are typically gang-on-gang.

    Defense attorneys have tried to control pretrial publicity by asking that certain hearings be closed and certain documents be sealed.

    Last August, Keith threatened to close a hearing over whether to separate the defendants’ cases, and attorneys for the Benton County Daily Record and Stephens Media Group objected. The Daily Record is published by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

    Keith cited concerns that Camacho and Sandoval-Vega would not get a fair trial, but he ended up keeping the hearing open.

    During jury selection, defense attorneys will want to ask jurors their feelings on illegal immigrants. Camacho is a Mexican national and an illegal alien, police said. He gave a fake name when he was arrested, and police found a counterfeit resident-alien card in his Honda, the affidavit states.

    Sandoval-Vega and Hernandez are legal residents, police said, but Sandoval-Vega initially gave another name when he was arrested, according to the affidavit.

    The lifestyles of Camacho and Sandoval-Vega also will be an issue at trial. An informant told police that all three defendants used methamphetamine and marijuana, the affidavit states.

    Likewise, Camacho’s attorneys have filed a motion saying they’ll explore aspects of Francis’ character, as well.

    Widow Twyla Francis commented briefly about her husband before saying she wasn’t ready to talk at length about him or the shooting.

    “Daniel was amazing, fun, compassionate, helpful, boisterous and funny,” she wrote in an email. “I’d love for people to know him, but... it hurts. I suppose that when someone dies, it’s always too soon for the rest of us.”

    Re: Manuel Camacho/Serafin Vega Plead Guilty in 2006 AR. Murder, Sentenced to LWOP

    « Reply #1 on: July 11, 2008, 03:24:35 PM »

    BENTONVILLE - Serafin Sandoval-Vega and Manuel Camacho pleaded guilty Friday and were sentenced to life in prison without parole, avoiding a trial and the possibility of the death penalty.

    Sandoval-Vega pleaded guilty to capital murder and Camacho pleaded guilty to accomplice to capital murder.

    Prosecutors said Sandoval-Vega shot Daniel Ray Francis during a confrontation in traffic in Lowell as an initiation into Camacho's gang.

    Francis, 32, of Little Flock, was shot in the back of the head while riding home from work from JB Hunt with a co-worker, Tracy Stith.

    Senior Circuit Judge Tom Keith accepted the pleas in a hearing called Friday morning after two full days of jury selection Tuesday and Wednesday. Only one juror was interviewed Thursday before Keith began meeting privately with prosecutors and defense attorneys.

    Sandoval-Vega, 21, and Camacho, 27, have been held in the Benton County jail since their arrest hours after the shooting in May 2006.

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