Judge Rejects Prosecutor’s ‘Kill Zone’ Theory, Reduces Number of Attempted Murder Charges

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By Kelly Xiao Luo and Linhchi Nguyen

WOODLAND, CA – Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian called it a “kill zone” theory here Friday in Yolo County Superior Court—he said defendant Jose Luis Gomezarreola intended to murder 10 different individuals in a specified area.

Gomezarreola is alleged to have opened fire near a store parking lot, harming numerous victims in the area back in March of 2011. He was charged with 17 counts relating to the incident, which include premeditated attempted murder, use of firearm and assault with a firearm.

However, despite DDA Kian’s insistence that the defendant should be convicted of attempted murder, Deputy Public Defender Michael Chastaine presented a motion to dismiss all of Gomezarreola’s attempted murder charges, arguing there is “simply no evidence that there was an intent to kill.”

And in response to Kian’s kill zone theory, Chastaine insisted a “kill zone requires specific evidence that the person who is shooting planned to kill everybody in that kill zone,” noting in the current case, there was a “wide open situation out in the street” and that is too broad to be considered a kill zone.

Chastaine cited the California Supreme Court case, People v. Canizales, that held a jury may convict a defendant under the kill zone theory only when evidence supports a finding that the defendant harbored the requisite specific intent to kill both the primary target and everyone within the zone of fatal harm.

“Consider the Boston bomber situation,” Chastaine stated. “Where he blew up a bomb, intending to kill everybody in that area. That’s a kill zone. This is not.”

On the other hand, Kian presented a different precedent from People v. Medina, where a defendant was convicted of four counts of attempted murder for shooting at a crowd when attempting to recover his crashed car.

DDA Kian pointed out that, according to the precedent, “a defendant can be convicted of attempted murder even without a primary target,” if the defendant “repeatedly shoots into a crowd with an intent to kill multiple people.”

He further established evidence of harm and injuries inflicted onto the victims during the incident. According to Kian, one of the victims was struck by a bullet in the parking lot, and that itself already established that they were in the kill zone radius.

Another victim was shot in front of their car, some hid behind a taco truck, and one was shot on the ground. To further support his evidence of intent, he presented the facts of the case such that shots were being fired at eye-level, where it is clear when a six-foot door was penetrated by a bullet, individuals within the premise of the event would have been killed.

And as Kian stated, “To say that the kill zone did not apply here suggests that the defendant did not intend to kill anybody…just because there’s no evidence that the victim was specifically targeted does not eliminate the idea that they were the target.”

Finally the prosecutor concluded that the fact of there being two different interpretations between the defense and prosecution goes to show that there is sufficient evidence for the jury to decide whether the shootings were attempted murders.

“This should go to the jury,” Kian insisted. “There is evidence. It’s just the matter of the weight and credibility of each witness.”

Once again, PD Chastaine re-emphasized that the kill zone requires the intent to kill every single person in that zone. “Kill zone is such a limited scope, that we got to establish that there was an intent to kill everyone in the primary target,” he said.

After taking some time to go over the attorneys’ points, Judge David Reed decided to keep only three of the attempted murder counts and dismissed the remaining five.

For the three counts, because the victims were either directly or closely wounded by the defendant’s bullet, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to decide whether the defendant had the necessary intent to support the conviction.

Nonetheless, Judge Reed agreed with PD Chastaine that the kill zone theory requires a concurrent intent to kill someone in a primary target, noting, “Without a primary target, there can be no concurrent intent…and no basis of a kill zone instruction.”

Defendant Gomezarreola is expected to return to Yolo County Superior Court in Dept. 7 on May 10 at 8:30 a.m. for a pre-trial hearing.

Linhchi Nguyen is a fourth year at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and English. She currently lives in Sacramento, California.

 


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