DOWNTOWN L.A. — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Tuesday morning in the case of two imprisoned gang members charged with the murders of two brothers in Santa Monica 11 years ago.
Judge George Lomeli ordered jurors to continue deliberating last week after they were unable to reach a unanimous decision in the murder trial of David Robles and Jessie Garcia, who faced two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. When jurors returned Tuesday still unable to reach a verdict, the judge declared a mistrial, ordering attorneys to return to court Aug. 12.
A decision on whether to seek retrial was still pending as of Tuesday afternoon, said Jane Robison, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office.
The prosecutor could not be reached for comment on the case.
The defendants are believed responsible for the deaths of Michael, 27, and Anthony Juarez, 19, on Oct. 27, 1998, a shooting which raised alarm in Santa Monica because of the extreme nature of the crime.
Bill Juarez, father to Michael and Anthony, said Tuesday that he was extremely disappointed by the outcome, but is determined to fight for a retrial.
“I hold no grudges, no nothing against anybody because I’m not like that, and I want people to understand that I will go along with the system, even if it takes 20 years,” an emotional Juarez said from his home in San Luis Obispo County. “I’m in this for the long haul.”
Robles and Garcia are still in custody, having been previously convicted on other charges several years prior.
Robles and Garcia, cousins and noted gang members, are alleged to have fatally shot the Juarez brothers as they were visiting their cousin’s clothing store on Lincoln Boulevard called Westside Clothing. Masked gunmen stormed into the store and fired numerous rounds from an assault rifle and a pair of handguns, according to previous reports.
The murders were believed to be in retaliation for a homicide which occurred just days before the Juarez brothers were gunned down in broad daylight. Apparently, a gang member who was attending a drug class at the CLARE Foundation on Lincoln Boulevard was shot while waiting for the bus, sources said, prompting the Culver City Boyz to retaliate against Santa Monica gang members.
The Juarez brothers were not from Santa Monica, nor affiliated with any gangs. Bill Juarez said they were interested in opening a store like Westside Clothing where they lived in Cayucos, a small town in San Luis Obispo County. They had come into Santa Monica the night before to check out their cousin’s operation and learn how to file all of the proper paper work with city officials.
The men wearing masks entered the store — which was located between Pacific and Strand streets on Lincoln Boulevard — shortly before noon, opened fire and ran out. Four people were shot. Two survived, including the Juarez’ cousin, Frank Juarez, Jr.
The masked men ran out of the store and got into a car awaiting them on Lincoln Boulevard, driven by an unknown suspect. The car was discovered near LAX later that day, wiped clean.
Evidence recovered at the crime scene was processed with current DNA technology. The DNA evidence was sent to the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensics Services DNA Laboratory and entered into their databank of known offenders. The samples submitted were matched with Robles and Garcia.
City Hall offered a $25,000 reward while the state offered $20,000 at the time of the shooting.
In the week before the brothers were killed Santa Monica experienced a string of shootings that took the lives of three men, including a German tourist, raising fears in a community that had a reputation for being comfortably safe from the gang wars raging around it.
For Bill Juarez, who spent much of his life in Santa Monica before moving out of fear of violence, the mistrial opened up old wounds, sending his daughter into deep depression, which forced him to leave Los Angeles just before the mistrial was declared.
“It’s been 11 years, but it feels like yesterday,” Bill Juarez said. “I don’t know why the jury didn’t get it.”