Police may have arrested the wrong man for killing a 20-year-old Temecula woman, a defense attorney argued today.
Attorneys gave their closing arguments in the trial of Jose Adan Martinez, 20, at the in French Valley.
Elijio Cervantes, who was allegedly in a gang with Martinez, could have been the real trigger man, according to defense attorney Robert Gazley.
Cervantes was the only witness who saw the shooting, and he testified Martinez did it.
"My job is not to present evidence that (Cervantes) was the shooter," the attorney told a jury during a hearing today. "Maybe (Cervantes) is playing 'the first liar wins.'"
Cervantez and Martinez drove with another friend to Semental's home in a quiet housing tract in Temecula on June 16, 2010, according to several witnesses.
The two got out and, according to Cervantez's account, the defendant fired numerous shots into Semental's bedroom window.
When the two ran away from the home, Martinez had the gun, several witnesses testified, but this does not prove guilt, Gazley told the jury.
"If (Cervantez) was playing 'the first liar wins,' would you take advantage of (Martinez's) intoxication and say, 'Here, you hold the (gun,)'" Gazley said.
The two men had several beers that morning together, and Martinez had been taking methamphetamine for three days straight, the attorney said.
Regardless of who pulled the trigger, the ultimate responsibility may be another man's.
The leader of the gang, who was living in Mexico, could have ordered Semental's death, and the two gang members may have been carrying out orders, Gazley said.
Semental, who was also in Martinez's gang, called the leader a few days before the shooting and got in an argument with him, saying the Temecula gang members would no longer follow his orders.
"What if (the Mexican gang leader) decided to get even with Maria Semental?" Gazley asked the jury. "There is no evidence. It's just a 'what if.' What if he decided to put her in check and order her murder."
Martinez, Semental and her boyfriend, Adrian Jurado, were the defendant's best friends, several witnesses -- including Jurado -- testified.
The story that Martinez would kill one of his best friends because of an argument with the gang leader makes no sense, the attorney said.
"Here's the thing about premeditated murder. It makes no sense," he told the jury. "He was a family friend and a welcomed guest."
The two friends never had a falling out, witnesses testified. "Everyone in the trial said there was no trouble between (Martinez) and (Jurado) before this shooting," he told the jury. "Then he picks up a gun… and shoots his best friend. That just doesn't make sense."
When Jurado took the stand last week, an attorney asked him whether Martinez was his best friend at the time of the shooting. "Yes," he said. Then he looked at the defendant and added, "at least, I thought he was."