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Jury to begin deliberating Miguel Araiza Jr.’s fate today

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 11:49 pm

Jurors heard impassioned closing arguments Thursday in the murder trial of Miguel Araiza Jr., accused of fatally shooting an 18-year-old Lodi woman and wounding her boyfriend in March 2012.

After nearly a month of testimony in San Joaquin County Superior Court, defense attorney Jennifer Perkins asked jurors to focus on what she called “several mistakes” made by the Lodi Police Department through the course of the investigation.

Those errors, she said, led Lodi police and witnesses to make assumptions that resulted in 18-year-old Araiza being falsely identified as the shooter.

“This case is about mistakes,” Perkins said. She later added, “Some of these mistakes were major and some were minor. But ... they all did affect the investigation.”

Authorities arrested Araiza, then 17 years old, days after Angelica Osorio was killed and her boyfriend, then 17, was shot four times in front of Osorio’s home on South Garfield Street.

Araiza, who has spent the last 20 months in San Joaquin County Jail, faces several charges, including murder, attempted murder, possession of methamphetamine, and a special enhancement of committing murder for the benefit of a street gang.

Today, the 12 jurors will begin deliberating until they reach a verdict.

During her closing argument, Perkins identified several errors she claims officers and detectives made in their reports, including what time they arrived at the scene of the shooting, and the address of a house they surveyed while looking for Araiza.

She also noted that an officer deleted an audio recording of an interview police conducted with Osorio’s boyfriend shortly after the shooting.

Given a chance for rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney Janet Smith admitted that Lodi police may have made some mistakes, but said none of the errors altered the course of the investigation.

She pleaded for jurors to ignore Perkins’ “conspiracy theory” and instead follow the evidence — the only factor that led police to Araiza, she said.

“You can’t explain away ... all of the evidence,” Smith said.

She discussed several findings, such as police locating the case of the murder weapon in the home of Araiza’s girlfriend.

But Smith focused on the most crucial piece of evidence: Osorio’s boyfriend, who identified Araiza as the shooter days after the incident while recovering in the hospital, and again in court just weeks ago.

“He had no reason other than the truth to identify the defendant as the killer and his attempted killer,” Smith said. “These are the facts. This is what happened.”

Smith said Araiza and Osorio’s boyfriend were once rival gang members — Araiza a Norteño, and Osorio’s boyfriend a former Sureño.

Smith argued that this rivalry was Araiza’s motive for shooting the couple as they returned to Osorio’s home after a date.

More than two weeks ago, Osorio’s boyfriend testified that as Araiza approached the couple with a firearm in his hand, he yelled, “(Expletive) you, scrap,” a derogatory word for a Sureño, before opening fire.

Perkins contended that not enough evidence was found to implicate Araiza, and attempted to poke holes in the evidence authorities discovered.

“There is no physical evidence tying Miguel (Araiza) to the crime because Miguel did not commit the crime,” Perkins said.

But Smith asked jurors to focus on the facts of the case — Osorio’s boyfriend, whose story hasn’t changed in a year and a half — and not allow Perkins to “take (them) off the scent.”

“You can only come to one reasonable conclusion,” Smith said. “As a result of that, you must find the defendant guilty.”

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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