By Jake Wylie
RIVERSIDE, CA. – Attorneys engaged in a heated debate over the relevance of pieces of evidence here in Riverside County Superior Court Thursday in the case of Jose Larin-Garcia, who is facing the death penalty for allegedly murdering four people in Palm Springs on Feb. 3, 2019.
The homicide trial has not yet begun but evidentiary hearings proceed with witnesses.
Of particular focus was a quote taken from Wednesday’s testimony of Kevin Martinez, an associate of Larin-Garcia at the time of the killing, who said that on or around Jan. 30, 2019, about four days prior to the four murders, Larin-Garcia told him, “If I don’t get no p***y, I’m going to go kill some n****s.”
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao told the court that in his testimony and cross-examination, Martinez said that based on his knowledge with and relationship to Larin-Garcia, “on this particular occasion, things were different.
“It was more intense. [Larin-Garcia] was madder… angrier,” Paixao said, describing Martinez’s testimony.
Specifically, Martinez was aware that Larin-Garcia kept a gun in the backseat of his car. But, sitting with Larin-Garcia in his car prior to the killings, what made Martinez uneasy was that Larin-Garcia took out his gun and put it on his lap.
According to Martinez, Larin-Garcia had told him to “set up” Jacob Montgomery, one of the victims, and that based on the circumstances and knowledge that Larin-Garcia “hated” Montgomery, he believed that Larin-Garcia wanted to kill Montgomery.
Allegedly, Larin-Garcia had said approximately five times on this occasion with Martinez that he wanted to kill someone.
“I don’t think I’ve seen such a clear instance of intent,” Paixao told Judge Anthony Villalobos, arguing that Larin-Garcia’s remarks were clear evidence that Larin-Garcia had a specific intent to kill.
“Clearly, we disagree with that analysis, if you can call it that,” said Defense Attorney John Dolan. “What relevance does [the p***y statement] have to intent to kill these four people in the charges? They can’t make that link.”
Dolan also said that the “misogynistic, racist” language, as well as the prosecution’s “strange speculation” around that statement, would be “highly inflammatory” to the jury.
“And it all ties to the condition that precedes it—that the People produce the evidence that he didn’t get any p***y between the date of this statement and the date of the killings,” said Dolan. “And so, I don’t see how it’s relevant to the intent of Mr. Larin-Garcia on the date in question… They can’t give us any logical link of relevance.”
Most of Thursday morning saw Paixao and Dolan debating whether or not these 13 words should be heard by a jury.
“Four days before the executions, the defendant says he wants to kill Jacob Montgomery. Someone who was friends with him and the victim was with [Larin-Garcia] that night and believed what he was saying,” said Paixao.
“We also know when the defendant did not get what he wanted—and he was very clear he wanted p***y—what was he going to do… he went to go to [the scene of the crime], to kill the specific type of people he said he wanted to go kill,” the DDA continued.
“She’s saying there’s high relevance—what is it? [Larin-Garcia] made a stupid statement. Does that mean he intended to kill the people in this case?” Dolan countered.
“They [the prosecution] want to mislead the jury. ‘Well, he was gonna set him up. We think, set him up to murder.’ That’s their argument. That’s not evidence,” he said.
In February, 2019, the Desert Sun reported early in the case that on the night of the murders, neighbors called the police after hearing sounds of gunshots. Soon after, police soon discovered three dead bodies inside a green Toyota Corolla, and a fourth body a half-mile away.
The Desert Sun said Larin-Garcia was discovered shortly after the murders under a truck near the scene of the crime. He was taken to a hospital for treatments of abrasions and to be questioned by police, but fled on foot. After changing his clothes at a friend’s house and shaving his head to alter his appearance, Larin-Garcia was arrested at a Greyhound station. Prosecutors now seek the death penalty.
Wednesday, a detective testified that an associate of Larin-Garcia said during an interview that Larin-Garcia had previously made plans to commit multiple robberies. According to witnesses, two of the victims, both teenage males, had also planned to rob an apartment earlier in the day, but chose not to because of a “bad feeling.”