INDIO, Calif. - A 12-person jury announced that Desert Hot Springs gang member Emilio Manuel Avalos, should receive the death penalty for the slaying of 20-year-old Marine Cpl. Henry Lozano and the shooting death of 17-year-old Jahi Collins, just before noon Wednesday. Avalos was also convicted of the attempted murder of Collins' friend, Bobby Wilson, who was left paralyzed in the 1994 shooting at Wardman Park in Desert Hot Springs.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day on whether to recommend a death sentence for Avalos or life in prison without the possibility of parole. "The question of life or death is entrusted to members of the community," said Avalos' attorney David Macher.
The parents of Lozano and Collins reacted to the verdict outside the courtroom.
"Well, I'm thrilled. I didn't know I believed in the death penalty, but I loved hearing the word 'death' because that's the extreme he can get," said Donna Lozano.
"When Jahi was murdered, it destroyed a lot of lives. A lot of people did not recover from my son's death," said Glenda Collins.
Macher asked the jury to give his client life in prison without parole, not the death penalty. His plea came after an emotional argument from Deputy District Attorney Pete Nolan. He fought back tears while giving vivid descriptions of the murders. He looked at Lozano several times, and even pointed to him, asking the jury to give him death, saying it was "right, just and moral."
Avalos' attorney, David Macher, said the murders were terrible, but "the fact those killings occurred does not govern your decision whether to extend sympathy or mercy to my client." Don't let the characterization of my client's conduct determine your conduct for you," he said.
Avalos is set to be officially sentenced January 25th, 2013.