Judge denies new trial in baseball bat killing
A new trial was denied in Yuma County Superior Court for the man convicted of a baseball bat killing in 2002.
Judge Thomas Thode denied a motion made by Mike Donovan, who is representing Ricardo Julian Ortiz Jr., 20. Ortiz was convicted of negligent homicide and aggravated assault during a jury trial in November.
Ortiz had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Jesus Eduardo Valenzuela. The negligent homicide charge was one of the options for the jury.
Valenzuela was killed during a baseball bat attack in the 3200 block of Columbia Avenue on Sept. 15, 2002. Another man, Abel Lopez, was hit in the back but didn't sustain a serious injury. Ortiz was convicted of aggravated assault for the attack on Lopez.
Donovan cited several reasons why he thought there should be a new trial. He pointed out Lopez didn't sustain a serious injury and as a result, he argued, the aggravated assault conviction should be negated. In addition, he argued at least two people appeared to have "got in the face of jurors." Donovan also maintained he wasn't able to properly cross-examine Lopez because the attorney didn't have a chance to interview him before the trial.
Since Lopez, who testified as a witness, was a victim, he had the right to refuse an interview. As a result, while on the witness stand, Donovan wasn't able to pose proper questions during cross examination, the attorney argued. Donovan noted Lopez had been in a Mexican hospital before the trial and was given anti-psychotic drugs.
When Lopez returned to the United States, he was arrested for failure to appear and booked into the Yuma County jail. Donovan said he was deprived of the drugs for three days while in jail and his condition was evident in the way he testified. Now that he is aware of the whole picture, Donovan said, he would have asked Lopez what medication he had foregone while testifying.
James Coil, the prosecutor, argued Donovan did learn about the medication later and was able to argue that fact to the jury. Coil also pointed out the family said the drugs weren't given for a psychotic condition and Lopez, although a state witness, actually helped the defense case.
Donovan also said a man whom jurors thought was one of his witnesses, "got in the face" of jurors and said "not guilty" to them during the trial. He denied that the man was his witness and, in fact, was listed as a prosecution witness.
The alleged aggressor was never called as a witness, according to Coil, because the prosecutor said it was evident he had switched allegiance to the defense side. Coil did say he had listed him as a witness before the trial began.
The jury reported the incident to Thode in the proper manner and each juror said they weren't influence by the outburst.
Ortiz testified during the trial and admitted to hitting Valenzuela but he said he was defending himself. Valenzuela suffered a serious wound to the back of the head as result of being hit by a metal baseball bat. He taken to a Phoenix hospital where he died on Sept. 24, nine days after he was hit.
Ortiz said he took the bat away from a person in a crowd that had gathered in the darkness. Defense witnesses testified at the time Ortiz was swinging the bat, it was "raining" beer bottles and he was just defending himself.
However, a prosecution witness, who was just a few feet away from Valenzuela when the fatal blow was struck, testified there were no bottles thrown until after the victim was hit.
After the fatal blow, Coil pointed out the crowd ran away from Ortiz, not toward him as would have happened if an angry crowd had been threatening him. Coil said the evidence showed "one guy going crazy on them, not a crowd going crazy on him."