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Trial set for man accused of killing young dad

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Jury selection is expected to wrap up next week for the trial of a Riverside gang member accused of gunning down a 23-year-old father of three in a racially motivated attack that could land the alleged shooter on death row if he's convicted.

Jesse Manzo, 25, is charged with first-degree murder, gang activity and being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, with special circumstance allegations of committing a hate crime in the course of a murder and killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Jury selection in the case began last week and is expected to conclude before the end of next week. Opening statements are tentatively set for May 13.

Manzo's is one of the oldest untried felony cases pending in Riverside County Superior Court. He's been in county jail since June 2008.

According to testimony from a 2009 preliminary hearing, the defendant targeted Raymond Franklin because the victim was black and possibly because he had made critical remarks about the all-Hispanic East Side Riva street gang, to which Manzo belonged.

The gang is Riverside's oldest and a dominant presence in the area around Patterson Park, where Franklin lived.

Witnesses allege that on the afternoon of the May 2, 2008, attack, Franklin had just parked outside his residence in the 1700 block of Matthews Street and was standing next to his vehicle when Manzo rode up on a bicycle and fired three shots from a semi-automatic handgun at close range.

A then-10-year-old girl, Kylie, was playing on the sidewalk with a friend and witnessed the shooting. She testified that Franklin staggered and collapsed after being shot, while the defendant pedaled away nonchalantly.

Several adult witnesses also fingered Manzo as the alleged shooter.

Riverside police officers called to the scene drove right past him as he rode his bike in the opposite direction, investigators said, noting that the patrolmen had not yet received a description of the suspect.

Manzo was arrested about a month later following an intense investigation that eventually led to the ex-con. He has prior convictions for illegal possession of a weapon and drug dealing, according to court records.

Franklin was studying to become a corrections officer.

Manzo is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

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