The murder trial of a teenage defendant who escaped juvenile hall last year was postponed a sixth time after his defense attorney asked for more time to investigate a witness’ inconsistent statements about the gun.
Josue Raul Orozco, 18, was scheduled for jury trial June 29 but attorney Ray Buenaventura said he needed to examine what the witness now said about the weapon. Prosecutor Josh Stauffer opposed the request, arguing the 2005 case is growing old, but Judge James Ellis "reluctantly” granted the latest delay, according to court records. Buenaventura could not be reached for comment.
Orozco returns to court June 23 to set a new trial date.
The latest continuance mimicked the last in February when Buenaventura argued the need for more time to test the evidence.
The fourth postponement was quickly followed by Orozco’s escape from the Youth Services Center. At each juncture, a judge has declared that particular delay to be the last.
When Orozco finally faces jurors, he will be out of his teenage years instead of the 14-year-old boy he was when arrested for the July 12, 2005 shooting of Francisco Rodriguez. His age earned him the dubious distinction of being the youngest person ever charged as an adult with murder in San Mateo County.
On Feb. 14, 2008, he scaled an outside wall of the juvenile hall with the help of two other wards and fled. He remained at large until September when arrested on suspicion of home burglaries in San Antonio, Texas.
While Orozco was gone, his co-defendant Faustino Ayala, now 24, was tried and convicted of second-degree murder in the same shooting. He was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. Three juveniles — including Orozco’s younger brother — were also convicted in juvenile court in March 2007 and are serving time at the California Youth Authority.
Based on Ayala’s trial, the prosecution believes Ayala drove a car carrying Orozco and the other Sureño gangmembers in search of rivals to kill. They happened upon Rodriguez, 21, and Orozco allegedly fired the fatal shot into the back of his head as the man, slowed by a deformed leg, ran for safety.
Orozco, now an adult, is housed on no-bail status at the Maguire Correctional Facility.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.