By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
The second day begins with the defense lawyers asking, outside the jury's presence, that prosecution witness Max "M-dog" Archuleta be reminded that he is not to say anything about first meeting Ornelas when the latter was in prison "for killing a Crip."
Then Archuleta, tattoos visible on his neck and wrist, is brought in and warned to avoid the topic of Ornelas's prison record. He nods nervously. He's in a witness-protection program and feels he's risking his life talking at all--much less testifying that he often saw Ornelas with an assault rifle.
Sargent picks up People's Exhibit 38 and carelessly swings the muzzle past Venus's family. They cringe. That's the gun, Archuleta says. He identifies the gun in a picture from a gang photo album that Detective Richardson found; Ornelas is holding the rifle in his mother's backyard.
Alejandro Ornelas and Danny Martinez had talked almost daily about wanting to get Salvino Martinez for snitching. "They said, 'The rat's gonna get it,'" Archuleta testifies.
"Why would Speed care if Sal snitched on Danny?" Sargent asks.
"That's his OG," Archuleta answers, using the gang expression of respect for an older gangster.
A couple of days after the killing, Archuleta says, he was visiting Alejandro at his mother's house when his friend bragged about shooting up the girl's apartment. "He said he 'smoked the bitch.'" Speed was upset with Quintana because he'd dropped the clip from the 9mm and was afraid the police would find fingerprints.
At the beginning of the third day, Ornelas comes into the courtroom and smiles at a well-dressed middle-aged man sitting with the rest of his family members, who seem to defer to him in the hallways and courtroom. The man nods and smiles back, a benediction.
After Ornelas is seated, Sammy "Zig Zag" Quintana enters. He's dressed in a jail jumpsuit, hobbling along in shackles. The defendant sneers as his former friend passes and stands before judge Thomas Woodford.
Quintana has difficulty raising his right hand to be sworn in because his cuffed hands are connected by a short lead to a chain-link belly band. As he takes a seat at the witness stand, the well-dressed man sitting with Ornelas's family raises his hand and makes a shooting gesture toward Sammy.
Quintana's father sits in the back of the courtroom, a dark blazer covering his Denver County sheriff's deputy uniform. He's already had to listen to his son, in the Frank Vigil trial, describe his part in the killing of one girl. Now he must hear about his boy's role in the murder of a second.
His boy now testifies that he was sitting in his jail cell after his arrest for DuVall's murder when he decided to approach the authorities. He was facing a first-degree-murder charge and knew the likely consequences were life without parole or the death penalty.
"Was that the only reason?" Sargent asks.
"Prior to being arrested," Quintana says, "my life was going downhill, and my heart was speaking to me to break free...to do what's right for once."
One night he and Alejandro had gone to the house of another CMG Blood, Jevaun "Gangster J" Ivory. It was obvious that someone was going to get shot that night, beginning with Gangster J's Rottweiler, which tried to take a bite out of Alejandro's leg while they were standing on the porch.
"Speed pulled out his gun, a .38, and pointed it at the dog," Quintana recalls. "He said, 'I'll shoot your dog.'"
"'You shoot my dog and I'll shoot you,'" Quintana says Ivory responded, going into the house to get a 9mm handgun in case he had to do just that. But Quintana stepped between the two. "We got problems with other people; let's not take out ourselves," he said.
Gangster J then loaned them the 9mm, and they took it with them as they searched for Salvino Martinez. They drove to one address where they thought he might be, and Alejandro emptied the gun into a car parked there. Then they drove to the apartment complex where one of Alejandro's uncles had reported seeing Salvino hanging out.
They saw a large, shadowy figure standing in one doorway that they thought might be their target. But first, they decided, they needed more weapons, so they went to Alejandro's mother's house to get the assault rifle and change into dark clothing.
Then they returned to the apartment complex. Twelve feet from the screen door to Number 52, they could see a young woman sitting on the daybed. "Alejandro began to fire," Quintana testifies. "It was very loud. I saw a woman taking many bullets...There was a lot of screaming."
As he sprayed bullets into the apartment, Alejandro walked toward the door. Quintana raised his gun, but it wouldn't shoot.
"Were you pointing at the girl?" Sargent asks.
"No," Quintana says, shaking his head. "Just pointing."
After he emptied his gun, Alejandro turned and ran. As Quintana moved to follow him, the clip, which had been meant for a different gun, fell to the ground. He couldn't find it in the dark, panicked and left it behind.