The District Attorney’s Office will not seek the death penalty for the only alleged Santa Barbara gang associate charged with personally firing a weapon causing death in the Dec. 9 fatal shooting of an innocent bystander on Stearns Wharf.
Jiram Jhunue Tenorio-Ramon, 22, is charged with murder with the special circumstance of committing the murder to benefit a criminal street gang, and with the special allegation of personal use of a firearm causing death. He also is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and criminal street gang conspiracy.
“He is the only defendant charged with a special circumstance making him death penalty eligible, but our office has already decided not to seek the death penalty,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Tate McAllister told the News-Press.
“Thus, he is now facing a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if he is convicted of both first degree murder and the special circumstance that the murder was committed for the benefit of the Westside gang.
“As for why we are not seeking the death penalty, that is a very involved process that involves the evaluation of mitigating and aggravating factors …,” the prosecutor said. “The process involves multiple members of the management team and the assigned prosecutor. The final decision is made by the District Attorney. I cannot be more specific than that without getting into case-specific facts.”
He declined to say whether prosecutors are alleging that Mr. Tenorio-Ramon fired the fatal shot that killed Robert Dion Gutierrez, 52, of Camarillo. “We have alleged that he personally fired a weapon that caused death. That’s all I can say,” the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Tenorio-Ramon and his three co-defendants – all alleged Santa Barbara gang associates – engaged in a Dec. 9 firefight with juveniles from Ventura County with alleged ties to Ventura County street gangs. Mr. Gutierrez was walking on the Santa Barbara wharf with his wife at the time, and was caught in the crossfire. He suffered a single gunshot wound and died later at the hospital.
Two defendants, Ricardo Tomas Jauregui-Moreno Jr., 20, and Christopher Dave Miranda, 21, are each charged with murder, with special allegations of committing the murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang and principal use of a handgun, conspiracy to commit murder and criminal street gang conspiracy.
Mr. Jauregui-Moreno is also charged with having been previously convicted of a violent felony or “strike” offense.
The fourth defendant, James Lee Rosborough, 21, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, criminal street gang conspiracy and being an accessory after the fact, with the special allegation of committing the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
They face a maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole if convicted of murder or conspiracy to commit murder, Prosecutor McAllister said.
All four defendants have pleaded not guilty. They are due back in court on April 6 to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
Currently, they are being held without bail. Mr. Rosborough appeared in court Thursday for a bail reduction hearing, but the hearing was continued to April 20.
Two 15-year-olds with alleged ties to Ventura County gangs – Matthew Lopez and Adan de la Cruz – have denied murder charges filed against them.
They are due back in Juvenile Court on March 28 for further proceedings.
A 16-year-old from Ventura County was charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder, and with illegal possession of an unregistered firearm.
The three juveniles were arrested by Santa Barbara Police Department officers on Feb. 16. Their arrests were the result of an intense police investigation to identify and bring to justice additional suspects following the Jan. 19 arrest of the four adult defendants in Santa Barbara.
Prosecutors allege the four adult defendants were driving on Stearns Wharf when they verbally challenged their alleged Ventura County rivals, and that they stopped their vehicle for the purpose of deploying two of their party to attack them with a firearm.
Police said Mr. Gutierrez was an innocent bystander who was struck and killed by one of the rounds fired during the altercation at the base of the wharf.
Prosecutors contend the four Santa Barbara defendants fled the scene of the shooting afterward, two on foot and two by vehicle, and that those in the vehicle then circled back to the location of the shooting to extract those who fled on foot to avoid apprehension.