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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Murder trial begins for gang member once featured on Discovery Channel

09:11 |


A gang member once featured in a Discovery Channel documentary series that focused on various police departments' efforts at combating gang violence is now being featured in an Alameda County courtroom as a suspect who killed a teenager because of a red baseball cap. Francisco Hernandez, 22, is accused of killing Marco Casillas, 19, and trying to kill Casillas' girlfriend as the couple walked their dog on the 4000 block of Santa Rita Street about 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2008. Hernandez, an admitted member of an Oakland gang, is suspected of killing Casillas because the aspiring dental assistant was wearing a red Philadelphia Phillies baseball hat that matched the color of a rival gang. "Why, oh why did the defendant kill Marco? Because Marco was wearing this hat," Deputy District Attorney Tim Wellman said during opening statements of the trial as he displayed the hat to the jury. "That is all it took for the defendant to blast shot after shot after shot." Wellman said Hernandez used an assault rifle to fire eight shots toward Casillas and his girlfriend, both of whom where found minutes later lying in a pool of blood just blocks from the girlfriend's mother's house. Casillas died from the wounds he suffered, but the girlfriend lived and eventually identified Hernandez as the person who shot the couple. Wellman has asked that the girlfriend's name not be printed to protect her from possible reprisals. According Advertisement to Wellman, Hernandez wrongly believed that Casillas was a member of a rival gang because he was wearing the red hat, and decided to kill him. Hernandez was a passenger in a white sedan when he saw Casillas, jumped out and ran up to the couple as they walked their dog, Pumpkin. Wellman used updates Hernandez placed on his MySpace website personal page and notes he wrote that were found when he was arrested to show that Hernandez had a willingness to kill and was proud of it. Wellman also displayed photographs of Hernandez that showed various tattoos that the prosecutor said proves Hernandez is in a gang and does not care about killing people. For example, Hernandez referred to himself as "Baster Kill3r" on the MySpace profile using a "3" instead of an "e" because it is the number associated with his gang. In some of the notes found by police, Hernandez discussed killing enemies. "Y'all ain't enemy, y'all target practice," one note reads. "We a war now, we gonna kill. Were I go end's up a crime scene," reads another note. Hernandez's defense attorney admitted Monday that the crime was a tragedy filled with emotional testimony and evidence but he cautioned the jury not to be swayed by the "incredibly powerful, emotionally persuasive opening statements" of the prosecutor. Instead, Darryl Stallworth asked the jury to look at just the facts to realize the case against Hernandez is not solid. Although Stallworth admitted his client was a gang member, he said the prosecution's evidence is weak at best. Casillas' girlfriend initially identified the shooter as a man with a medium build, as did a resident of Santa Rita Street who witnessed the shooting, Stallworth said. But Stallworth said Hernandez weighed almost 300 pounds at the time of the shooting. In addition, Stallworth said, investigators have found no evidence directly linking Hernandez to the murder weapon. The gun was found in a home frequented by members of the gang Hernandez belongs to but Stallworth said that does not prove his client used it. Lastly, Stallworth said, Hernandez's relatives will provide an alibi for the 22-year-old as he promised they will testify that Hernandez was with them the night Casillas was killed. "He is part of a gang but that is not enough to make that stretch," Stallworth said. "Be careful of the blanket motive that just because he is in a rival gang he killed."

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