On Wednesday, a San Joaquin County jury found a documented Lodi street gang member guilty of murdering an 18-year-old woman and attempting to kill her boyfriend as the couple returned home from a date in March 2012.
Following two days of deliberation, jurors convicted 18-year-old Miguel Araiza Jr. on all counts he faced in the slaying of Angelica Osorio, including first-degree murder, attempted murder, possession of methamphetamine and participating in a street gang.
On Feb. 3, Judge William Johnson will sentence Araiza, who now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“It was the correct verdict based upon the evidence and the facts that came out,” Deputy District Attorney Janet Smith said. “Jurors did a really good job of weeding through what wasn’t evidence and wasn’t important.”
As the verdict was read, Araiza, dressed in a green, collared shirt, stared straight ahead. His attorney, Jennifer Perkins, rubbed his shoulder.
In the audience, Osorio’s mother and a family friend wore shirts with a picture of Osorio.
Smith didn’t say a guilty verdict provided closure for Osorio’s mother. However, she believes it was important for her to see how many people worked toward finding justice for Osorio’s killing.
“Based upon our discussions and her ability to see how hard everyone worked to try to get justice for her daughter, she felt comforted by that,” Smith said. “It’s still very difficult because she lost her daughter.”
During the month-long trial, no physical evidence that surfaced could be directly tied to Araiza. In addition, detectives never found the murder weapon.
However, Osorio’s boyfriend, whom Smith asked remain anonymous because of concerns for his safety, identified Araiza as the gunman hours after the shooting and again in court roughly three weeks ago.
Smith said testimony from Osorio’s boyfriend, who suffered four gunshot wounds in the ambush, was the strongest piece of evidence. She added that without it, identifying Araiza as the shooter would have been challenging.
“I would have been much more difficult, because citizens that we know watched the murder happen refused to cooperate with law enforcement,” Smith said. “So without the boyfriend’s testimony, we would not have had direct evidence of who the shooter was.”
Wednesday conviction will be automatically appealed to the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which is standard for most murder cases.
Perkins, when reached via phone, declined to comment.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.