Jury acquits G.C. man in attempted murder trial

7/23/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

A 12-member jury late Thursday night found a Garden City man not guilty of attempted murder and all other counts in connection with a June 2012 shooting that sent a local man to the hospital.

Earlier that day, jurors heard closing arguments in the attempted first-degree murder trial of 27-year-old Miguel Herrera, who was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm, and one count of criminal possession of a firearm, the latter charge stemming from Herrera having a prior felony conviction.

The jury began deliberating at about 1 p.m. Thursday in the Finney County Courthouse. Jurors continued deliberations until 11 p.m., at which point they came back with a not guilty verdict on all counts.

"The system worked — the jury took seriously the fact that we are all presumed innocent until the government proves us guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Daniel Diepenbrock, Herrera's attorney, said Monday. "And they obviously concluded that in this case the government did not meet that burden."

Multiple attempts to reach Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier for comment Monday were unsuccessful, and Finney County Assistant Attorney Eric Fournier also was unavailable to comment on the verdict.

Prosecutors argued during trial that Herrera shot Frankie Garcia, 24, Garden City, in the back on June 30, 2012. Garcia was taken to the hospital with a non-life-threatening wound. Prosecutors also argued that Herrera shot at and missed Omar Hernandez, 27, Garden City, in connection with the same incident.

Jurors were instructed that both attempted first-degree murder charges included lesser offenses of attempted second-degree murder and attempted voluntary manslaughter, both of which were to be considered as lesser possible offenses, but they found Herrera not guilty of those offenses, as well.

Both Herrera and Omar Quinonez, 27, Garden City, were arrested on July 9, 2012, in connection with the incident. Herrera was arrested on allegations of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated weapon violation by a convicted felon, aggravated battery, and two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm. Quinonez was arrested on allegations of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm.

In his closing arguments Thursday, Fournier presented to the jury what he believed took place:

Fournier said occupants of a passenger vehicle that Garcia and Hernandez were riding in threw a beer can at Herrera's pickup. The two vehicles separated, Fournier said, and Herrera allegedly picked up a handgun and "hunted the car across town." And when he located it, Fournier said, Herrera fired the shot that hit Garcia in the back and the two shots that missed Hernandez. Those shots struck a residence in the 200 block of North Second Street that was occupied by Roxanna Barrios and her then-5-year-old son, neither of whom were injured.

Fournier argued that in an attempt to cover up the crime, Herrera picked up the shell casings, got rid of the gun and removed the decal with his name on it from his pickup.

Garcia testified during the prosecution's rebuttal on Thursday that he identified Herrera's pickup prior to the shooting, because the decal was still in place, along with a Mexican symbol. Garcia also testified that he recognized the shooter as Herrera when he saw teardrop tattoos under Herrera's right eye.

In the defense's closing arguments, Herrera's attorney, Diepenbrock, argued that Quinonez had borrowed Herrera's pickup the night of the shooting and that Quinonez was more than likely the real shooter.

According to the Finney County Attorney's Office, the terms of a deal made with Quinonez in exchange for his cooperation in the case against Herrera, included a reduced sentence of 16 months on the attempted murder charge and a reduced sentence of 12 months on the aggravated battery charge, both to run consecutively. He was also convicted on two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm, for which he received probation.

Diepenbrock said in court that Quinonez admitted he was at the scene and that he would have the incentive to start rumors about Herrera pulling the trigger, if he was the actual shooter.

Fournier responded by telling the jury that Quinonez put himself in a dangerous situation by coming forward to testify against a gang member.

"He could face retribution," Fournier said.

In his closing arguments, Fournier said 10 witnesses testified against Herrera, four of whom said Herrera confessed the crime to them and two of whom who said they saw him with a gun on June 30, 2012.

One of the four who testified against Herrera was Jeremy Murphy, an inmate at the Finney County Jail where Herrera was incarcerated. Prosecutors began their closing arguments by showing a video of a commons area at the jail where it shows Herrera talking to Murphy and making a hand gesture similar to a gun, and then indicating that four shots were fired.

"Bang, bang, bang, boom. That's what the defendant told Jeremy Murphy while they were in jail," Fournier said in court Thursday.

Fournier summed up the shooting by telling jurors that the case was really about a gang member being disrespected by other gang members, which prompted Herrera to seek revenge.

In the end, however, Herrera was found not guilty on all counts.

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