Update: Cesar Reyes-Marquez has now been found guilty for a second time of killing Servando Morelos-Avila nearly seven years ago. The long delay occurred because the first judgment was tossed out over improper jury instructions. The result was a second trial, during which Reyes-Marquez was convicted of similar charges stemming from a fight that spun out of control, with at least two other people winding up seriously injured.
Our previous coverage, published the day after Morelos-Avila's July 11, 2010, death, has been incorporated into this post.
The details of the crime are laid out in a March 2016 ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals that mandated Reyes-Marquez's retrial.
On the 11th, according to the document, a fight broke out between employees of two different repair shops located near the 3700 block of Wheeling Street in Aurora: Wiger's Auto Body and Orozco Body Shop. The initial combatants were Gabriel Campos, who worked at Wiger's, and Orozco owner Rey Rascon, and in the beginning, the ruling says, the weapons they used were fists.
Hands would soon be replaced with deadlier implements.
After stage one of the scrap concluded, the ruling reveals, Campos returned to Wiger's and rounded up two co-workers: Morelos-Avila and Hugo Perada-Lopez. The trio, allegedly armed with a bat, a screwdriver, a metal bar and a chisel, then confronted Rascon, supplemented by two of his own backers, Hervey Rico-Perez and Jose Alfredo Jiminez-Ochoa.
Following more combat, the ruling notes, Rico-Perez ran to another nearby shop, this one owned by Jiminez-Ochoa's brother, and encountered Reyes-Marquez and a second man, Monserat Chavez. Just as Chavez was learning that Jiminez-Ochoa and Rascon had been injured, the men from Wiger's drove past the shop. Chavez responded by hurling two beer bottles at their vehicle, which skidded to a halt. Its occupants, Campos and Perada-Lopez, soon disembarked, chased down Chavez and began attacking him.
Near the scene of the crime.
At this point, the document's narrative continues, Reyes-Marquez ran to yet another unit in the complex, retrieved a gun and opened fire on Morelos-Avila, Perada-Lopez and Campos. The former was killed, while the latter pair were shot but survived.
The next day, Reyes-Marquez turned over the gun to investigators and confessed to the crime.
Based on this description, the case seems open and shut. And indeed, Sue Lindsay, spokeswoman for the 17th Judicial District DA's office, which prosecuted Reyes-Marquez, notes that the jury at his early 2012 trial found him guilty on a slew of offenses, including second-degree murder and two counts each of attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon — serious bodily injury. His sentence, handed down on March 20, 2012, added up to 74 years in prison.
However, Reyes-Marquez, who'd originally claimed both self-defense and insanity in the matter, appealed, with one of his complaints focusing on jury instructions that had dealt with the concepts of provocation and being the initial aggressor — and the Colorado Court of Appeals agreed that this was nonsense.
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"Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the giving of this instruction," the ruling states, "we conclude there simply was no evidence presented that [Reyes-Marquez] intended to provoke a fight with Campos, Morelos-Avila and Perada-Lopez so that he could inflict injury upon them under the guise of such provocation. Indeed, it is undisputed that Chavez, not [Reyes-Marquez], threw bottles at Campos, Morelos-Avila and Perada-Lopez. Therefore, in the absence of evidence of provocation by [Reyes-Marquez], it was error for the trial court to give the jury an instruction on provocation."
On this basis, Reyes-Marquez's case started over again, and last week, at the conclusion of the retrial, a new jury convicted him of second-degree murder and two counts apiece of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.
We don't yet know if Reyes-Marquez will receive lesser punishment than he did the first time around. The sentencing hearing is set for July, and Lindsay says a pre-sentence investigation has been ordered. That inquiry should help determine if Reyes-Marquez succeeded at shaving any years off the 74 he was given the first time.