Final Arguments Made in Jack in the Box Murders; Jury Out

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By Tori Gacutan and Jeanine Grimes

RIVERSIDE, CA – Closing arguments were made here in Riverside County Superior Court this week in the trial of Kamyron Barnett and Desmond Ochoa, alleged accomplices to the shooter Jared Contreras, in the March 7, 2018, murder of “JJ and Eli” in an alleged gang violence case.

Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Degonia told the jury, “When worlds collide one wins…the orderly world that we all live where young men can hang out at Jack in the Box and borrow their mom’s cars to run errands and hangout with their friends by the laws that we all agree to follow…”

Degonia added that “you contrast it [orderly world] with the gang world, the life and world they choose to measure a man’s worth by the amount of violence he conflicts in communities upon vulnerable victims,” noting JJ and Eli died in each other’s arms when the bullets ended their life.

The DDA called the accused “cold-blooded” and said they had no remorse for these murders and hold their actions like a bag of honor. The DDA said they chose to commit the crimes similar to a video game, not seeing the victims as men in the community of Moreno Valley.

The DDA added “those (Barnett) who assist in murders, who aid and encourage a 14-/15-year-old to commit murders, those who did not pull the trigger, that those men are not uninvolved simply because they did not pull the trigger.”

The jury was told in the closing argument that “when Desmond Ochoa drove the vehicle to the Jack in the Box parking lot from the Continental Apartments party on March 7, 2018, one of two things happened: 1) Desmond had to drive the car; or 2) Jared had to pull the trigger. Jared needed someone to get behind the wheel of the stolen Dodge Caliber in order to hide their identity. Jared needed the driver to be the lookout and to slow down at the right speed and aim the…gun to shoot six rounds at JJ and Eli. Desmond is equally responsible and does not get to hide behind Jared.”

DDA Degonia asserts, “Kamyron uses encouragement in order for Jared to commit the murder and he was the ringleader to this gang life.”

A couple days later, DNA was found on the steering wheel and Ochoa was thought to be the main contributor to the crime. The DDA said Desmond was gripping the steering wheel as tight as he could as the adrenaline increased. His participation was getting rid of the car.

The DDA reminded the jury that Desmond Ochoa was the driver. Kamyron Barnett as the influencer. Jared Contreras as the shooter.

In the concluding statements from DDA Degonia, she charged the accused lied when they were being questioned by professionals about what happened during the drive-by shooting. Instead of telling the truth, she explained, they tried to deter the police away from them. The three accused also continued to send lyrics from songs that showed they agreed with the murder and that they had intent to murder, said the prosecutor.

In fact, DDA Degonia argued that the accused planned and conspired this murder one year prior, which makes the crime first-degree murder.
The district attorney adds that the defendants also performed the drive-by murder in a stolen vehicle. But ultimately, she declared that there is no question that this was a first-degree murder.

Furthermore, she told the jury that, although “they (the other two accused involved in the murder) weren’t the shooters, we can agree that all that matters is that they engaged in aiding and abetting or conspiracy in Jared’s murder.”

Therefore, Kim Degonia says that when it comes to the law, “when there is more than one person who committed a crime, we’re not going to just hold the shooter responsible.” Through all the evidence that was given, Degonia concluded that both of the accused who did not actively shoot at the victims, also intended the murder, which makes them equally guilty of the charge as well.

Defense Attorney Eric Youngquist argued the prosecution’s plea was emotional and that she did not focus on the factual evidence.

Youngquist said Facebook was just a place for accused to “talk trash.” Moreover, Youngquist revealed that an investigator also agrees that “Facebook is a forum for gangs to talk trash to each other.”

Youngquist argued in favor of one of the accused, stating that he was not involved in any of the Facebook conversations, even when one of the other accused was talking about doing work for the gang. Despite the other gang members talking trash on Facebook, Youngquist states that young kids are commonly known to talk trash on those types of forums.

As for the lyrics that were sent among the accused, the defense attorney explained that the lyrics are not meant to disrespect the families of the victims. Instead, the lyrics are simply just music that they listen to, he said.

From the video and evidence given to court, Youngquist also reveals that the photos and videos shown in court do not clearly show who the person in the car is. In order for the jury to convict, he maintained, there must be evidence present beyond all reasonable doubt.

The defense attorney added the DNA found in the car could have been from any time, including before or after the shooting.

Another form of doubt found by the defense attorney is that the only survivor from the drive-by shooting identified someone else as the shooter. Moreover, there were two people who fit the same description of one of the accused, making it confusing to determine who the actual person was.

Overall, the defense attorney argued that the prosecution is trying to convict someone without solid evidence.

The jury is expecting to come back from deliberation with a verdict this next week.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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