Indio - Jurors unable to break a deadlock on two of three murder charges against a Coachella man today will resume deliberations on Tuesday.
Angel Anthony Esparza, 30, is charged with the killing of 16-year-old Angel Luna in Coachella on Dec. 3, 2009, and the deaths of farm workers Gregorio Juarez and Pedro Garcia in Thermal on Dec. 19 that year.
Jurors announced Wednesday they were deadlocked 6-6 on two of the murder charges, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge James Hawkins asked them to keep working.
Deliberations continued Wednesday and today, but jurors reported no progress in reaching a unanimous decision as to Esparza's guilt in two killings.
No information was made public about the murder count on which the jurors rendered a verdict. The judge sealed that information.
Deliberations will continue Tuesday. Courts are dark Monday for the Cesar Chavez Day, when the late labor leader would have turned 87.
In addition to three counts of murder, Esparza faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the commission of a robbery and murder in the commission of a kidnapping. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
The two cases were filed separately and a judge ordered them
consolidated in November.
``Three head shots, three execution-style murders -- all three at the hands of the defendant,'' Deputy District Attorney Jake Silva told jurors in his opening statement earlier this month.
Luna dropped off some homework on the afternoon of Dec. 3 at Coachella Valley Adult School near Eighth Street and Orchard Avenue, which is near the Boys & Girls Club in Coachella. Surveillance video showed him riding his bike to the school and entering a classroom, as well as a ``shadowy figure'' in the backyard of a home on Ninth Street, Silva said.
``I'll argue that that figure is Angel Esparza, waiting for Mr. Luna,'' he said.
Witnesses saw Luna with someone wearing a black ``hoodie'' sweatshirt near or at the Boys & Girls Club, and two volleys of shots were heard, according to the prosecution.
After the gunfire, Esparza ran into a home on Ninth Street and asked a
woman for a ride, Silva said.
En route to Indio, the woman heard Esparza say, ``That fool was dead before he hit the ground,'' the prosecutor said.
He said Esparza saw reports of Luna's killing the next morning and told another woman with whom he spent the night that ``someone ratted me out.''
Christina Zapata and her daughter, Cecilia Morin, let Esparza take refuge in their trailer in Thermal and, on Dec. 19, Juarez and Garcia arrived with plans to pay to have sex with Morin, according to the prosecutor.
As the men were undressing in Morin's bedroom, Esparza burst in with a gun, ordered them onto the floor, took their cash and ATM cards, bound them and put duct tape over their eyes and mouths, Silva said.
Zapata and Esparza drove the victims to a vineyard at Avenue 58 and Pierce Street, he said.
``Christina Zapata will tell you the defendant dragged both individuals into the vineyard, and you'll hear they were never seen alive again,'' he said.
A boyfriend of Morin's mother drove Esparza, who had a can of gasoline with him, to the vineyard, Silva said. The next morning, the men's bodies were found ``burned beyond recognition,'' he said. Both were shot in the head.
When Esparza was arrested Dec. 24, 2009 in San Bernardino, authorities found a gun with ballistic characteristics that matched the one used to kill Garcia and a black ``hoodie,'' Silva said.
Morin and Zapata each pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder last year in exchange for sentences of 15 years to life in prison.
Defense attorney John Patrick Dolan said Esparza did run into Luna the day the teen was killed, but had no reason to hurt the boy.
After the shooting, witnesses told authorities they saw some people run to a vehicle, and Esparza, also a witness, ran because he was on parole, Dolan said.
"You will find there is no physical evidence in the area where Angel Luna was shot that relates to Angel Esparza,'' Dolan said in his opening statement. ``You'll learn there is no eyewitness that says, `Angel Esparza is the person who committed the shooting.'''
Regarding the murders of Juarez and Garcia, Zapata and Morin, arrested in the deaths of the farm workers, heard about Luna's death and made a deal with prosecutors, Dolan said.
``Each of them will point the finger at Angel Esparza and get second-degree murder,'' Dolan said.
Dolan said there was no evidence that put Esparza in the trailer.
Esparza told investigators he got the gun seized during his arrest ``on the street a couple days ago.'' Dolan said it wouldn't make sense for a murderer to keep the gun.
The hooded sweatshirt found when Esparza was arrested ``does not yield
identification of a human being,'' Dolan said.