Homicide case goes to grand jury
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Oct 11, 2012 | 2533 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
STOCKTON — A judge ordered Tuesday, Oct. 9, that a grand jury will determine if there is enough evidence to try two men accused of murdering a Tracy man in February.

A hearing scheduled for Tuesday in San Joaquin County Superior Court for defendants Samuel Inguanzo, 19, of Tracy and Manuel Pelayo, 20, was continued to Oct. 22, when Judge Roger Ross said the court could hear the grand jury’s ruling.

The men, both from Stockton, are accused of fatally shooting 23-year-old Anthony Sosa Jr., who was found dead on the corner of Walnut and 11th streets in the early morning hours of Feb. 4.

Inguanzo is charged with premeditated murder, street terrorism, accessory after the fact, carrying a concealed firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, prior felony convictions and discharging a firearm during a felony. He was in San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp on $2.9 million bail as of Thursday.

Pelayo is charged with premeditated murder, being armed with a firearm during a felony, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, discharging a firearm during a felony, intentional and personal discharge of a firearm, street terrorism, carrying a concealed firearm and carrying a loaded firearm. He was in county jail on $4 million bail as of Thursday.

Pelayo’s attorney, Samuel Behar, said outside courtroom 26 that it was Deputy District Attorney Tori Verber’s decision to take the case before a grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

He said the grand jury process streamlines the judicial process, because the defense is not allowed to be present or cross-examine witnesses when the grand jury hears the evidence.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Verber said she had no comment as to why the preliminary hearing was delayed.

However, according to district attorney spokesman Robert Himelblau, there are “a lot of advantages” for the prosecution to have a grand jury make the ruling as opposed to a judge.

A preliminary hearing is similar to a miniature trial, with witnesses and a presentation of discovery evidence, to decide if there is enough evidence to rule someone should stand trial. But for cases that have multiple defendants or many witnesses, it can reduce the time needed to make a ruling.

Himelblau said that the Pelayo-Inguanzo case had more than 30 witnesses scheduled to testify at a traditional preliminary hearing, and the grand jury should make the time between the beginning and end of the process days rather than weeks.

A grand jury ruling also works well, Himelblau said, if there is a desire by the prosecution to obtain more investigative information, because the grand jury can ask questions or request witnesses and documents.

Although it’s not unheard of to have a grand jury rather than a judge decide if there’s enough evidence to go forward, defense attorney Behar said this case was unusual because it was decided at the “last minute” — Tuesday, the day of the scheduled preliminary hearing.

“We’ll play the cards we’re dealt,” Behar said.

Ross set the next hearing in the trial for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 22 in Department 35 of the Stockton courthouse.

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