A 23-year-old Redwood City man serving life without parole for killing a teen at a party six years ago will be resentenced and might receive a shot at eventual release based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that such mandatory sentences for juveniles are unlawful.
On Friday, Judge Robert Foiles granted Ricardo Garcia a new sentencing after prosecutors conceded that he is entitled under the law. A hearing was set for Aug. 29. Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said between now and then her office will review the case, Garcia’s background and his behavior while in custody to decide if prosecutors will again seek a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Garcia was 17 when he fatally shot Solomone Zarate, 19, on Sept. 13, 2008, but tried and convicted in 2010 as an adult of first-degree murder with a special gang allegation that made him parole ineligible.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 case Miller v. Alabama that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for juveniles convicted of crimes even if they are tried as adults. The court had previously made an exception for murder.
Cases of juveniles sentenced as such like Garcia were sent back to the local courts for reconsideration using factors like a defendant’s age, maturity and family life. At his upcoming sentencing hearing, Foiles is required to specify why he opts for the term chosen.
Garcia killed Zarate at the Columbia Avenue party after jumping into a fight between his friend and the victim to prove he was the “biggest, baddest” member of the Fair Oaks Park sect of the Norteño gang, the prosecution contended during trial.
The defense didn’t dispute Garcia shot Zarate but argued it was self-defense.
Garcia testified as the sole defense witness that he believed Zarate had a gun because his hand was in his waistband. Zarate called out Heller Street, his alleged gang, and Garcia reportedly countered with his affiliation before shooting twice, then following and firing three more times.
The defense sought 60 years to life in prison for Garcia instead of the life without parole sentence he received.
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