PASCO -- Gregorio Luna Luna only wanted one thing when he went to his former girlfriend's Pasco apartment in May 2010 -- to get his son and return to Mexico, defense attorneys told a Franklin County jury on Monday.
"His heart ached for his son and to raise him in a proper environment," Shelley Ajax argued.
But Anita Petra, a special prosecutor on the case, said there was nothing to support the "preposterous story that this is about a father's love."
"This is about a father's hate," she said.
And jurors apparently agreed, taking just 90 minutes Monday to convict Luna Luna of first-degree murder for the stabbing death of Griselda Ocampo Meza. Luna Luna, 32, showed no reaction as the verdict was read at 3:55 p.m.
The jury of six men and six women were then told they had to begin a special deliberation to decide if there's enough evidence to support aggravating circumstances. Prosecutors claim Luna Luna engaged in a pattern of domestic violence with Ocampo Meza and that there was a court order in place telling him to stay away from her and their 5-year-old son.
Special Prosecutor Andy Miller explained they needed to address the aggravating circumstances "to hold the defendant accountable and truly give Griselda Ocampo justice."
Miller is the Benton County prosecutor. He and Deputy Prosecutor Petra have the case because of a conflict with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
Jurors will return today to deliberate on the aggravating circumstances.
They have to decide if there was a no-contact order in place May 24, 2010, when Ocampo Meza was killed and that Luna Luna knew about it.
They also have to find that Luna Luna engaged in three or more crimes of harassment or assault against the 21-year-old woman.
During the two-week trial, witnesses testified about how Luna Luna allegedly hit Ocampo Meza on Dec. 31, 2009, struck her and tried to restrain her with a rope on Jan. 30, 2010, and sent a letter to her threatening to kill her before April 30, 2010.
Defense attorney Karla Kane suggested that her client didn't know the no-contact order still was in place after he was released from custody and there was no evidence Luna Luna intended to assault Ocampo Meza.
She also said making a threat in the letters is not enough -- the law requires that a reasonable person can believe that the threat can be carried out.
"He was in jail. He was upset. He was hurt," she said. "He was in jail. It's not reasonable to assume that a person in his shoes would actually think that could be carried out."
Miller countered that Luna Luna may have been in jail on the day he sent the threatening letters, but he "sure wasn't in jail on May 24 ... when he comes and does the deed and kills her."
Luna Luna also was fully aware of the no-contact order -- he told detectives he knew about it, Miller said. But his actions the day before he killed Ocampo Meza, when he showed up at Roberto's Tacos and told her not to call police, is also proof, Miller said.
"He sees employees calling police, and he runs like a coward," he said. "... We want justice in this case. We want full accountability."
If jurors return a second verdict in favor of the aggravating factors, Luna Luna will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Luna Luna was given the weekend to decide if he wanted to testify in his own defense, but he chose not to take the stand Monday.
The defense called no witnesses after the state rested. They did, however, make a motion to dismiss the first-degree aggravated murder charge, saying the state didn't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Judge Robert Swisher denied the motion.
Jurors were told they had the option to consider the lesser crimes of second-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.
To find Luna Luna guilty of first-degree murder, jurors had to unanimously agree that the murder was premeditated.
During his closing argument, Miller explained that premeditation only requires a moment in time between when Luna Luna formed the intent and when he carried it through.
He then went through several examples of when Luna Luna formed the intent to kill.
"I am totally crazy, furious, uncontrollable, full of rage. I will not be stopped by anyone or anything," Luna Luna wrote in a letter read by Miller. "Sadly, that is one promise the defendant kept," Miller said.
Luna Luna drove to Kennewick intent on killing Ocampo Meza and told a friend he was angry and was going to kill her, Miller said.
Even if he didn't form the intent until he went to her apartment at 4 a.m. or after he got inside the apartment, that's still premeditation, Miller said.
"If you found that the defendant ... had her restrained and was putting the careful and controlled superficial wounds in her back and only developed the intent when he turned her over and inserted the knife 5 inches into her, that is premeditated intent," he said. "That's all you need."
Miller asked the jury to consider the last moments of Ocampo Meza's life, what she went through as she screamed for help and how she put her son's safety first when she told her boyfriend to take him out the apartment when Luna Luna was attacking her.
"There was no one there to witness her pain in the last seconds of her life as the life leaves with the blood from the defendant's knife wound to her chest," Miller said. "While we can't hear her pain at the time, we can do one thing. We can find justice ..."
During the defense's 22-minute closing argument, Ajax said her client told police that he didn't know how Ocampo Meza got stabbed. He said he got into a fight with her new boyfriend and she got in between them.
Ocampo Meza grabbed Luna Luna's leg, and he dragged her toward the door because all he wanted to do is go after Jairo Flores-Flores who ran out with Luna Luna's son, she said.
"He admits there was a struggle, but within seconds, he frees himself and he ran to the apartment where Jairo was still standing on the porch," Ajax said. "... He's the one that was injured. He's the one that was wounded."
Ajax said what's more even more telling is Luna Luna's actions in the police video when he is told Ocampo Meza is dead.
"Remember what you saw. He starts to weep. He denies. He doesn't believe the police," she said.
Ajax said Luna Luna told police that he came from Mexico to see his son. That was his mindset, she said. All he wanted to do is see his son and raise him with some values, she said.
She acknowledged the letter Luna Luna sent contained some mean statements, but, "How many people have said out of anger that they're gong to kill somebody but not mean that they're actually going to kill somebody?"
Ajax also said Luna Luna's letters were misinterpreted and when he said he was going to do it again and do it successfully, he meant "he was going to be successful in getting his son and going to Mexico."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org