MARTINEZ (CBS SF) – One of two juries in a dual trial against two young men accused of taking part in the brutal 2009 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl on the Richmond High School campus has reached a verdict.
The jury for 20-year-old Pinole man Marcelles Peter reached a verdict in the trial around noon. Both he and Jose Montano, 22, of Richmond, are charged with rape in concert, oral copulation in concert and sexual penetration with a foreign object along with special allegations of inflicting great bodily injury.
Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga has sealed that verdict until Montano’s jury has reached a verdict.
If Montano’s jury doesn’t return a verdict by Thursday, the verdict for Peter will be read that afternoon, a court clerk said.
Two separate juries were deliberating at the close of a dual trial against Montano and Peter, the first defendants to stand trial in connection with the October 2009 gang rape, in which the teen victim was raped and beaten over a more than two-hour period in a darkened courtyard at Richmond High, according to prosecutors.
The girl was left with head trauma, burns, hypothermia and a near-fatal 0.35 percent blood-alcohol level, Deputy District Attorney John Cope said.
Two other men, Manuel Ortega, 22, and Ari Morales, 19, are serving 32-year and 27-year prison terms, respectively, for their roles in the rape after reaching plea deals with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
Two more co-defendants are awaiting trial on lesser sexual assault charges.
Earlier this year, two juries were selected for the rare dual trial against Montano and Peter. The two groups heard most testimony during the trial together, but other parts, including closing arguments, were heard separately.
Peter’s jury began deliberating late Monday morning, and Montano’s jury began deliberating late Monday afternoon.
Former Santa Clara County Prosecutor and legal analyst, Steven Clark said each jury has its challenges and may send the men to prison on charges of aiding and abetting rape, even if they never touched the victim.
“The jury has an awful lot of evidence to sort out here, but at the end of the day this is such a horrible crime that the jury is not going to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who was present and participated in this crime in any way.”
Clark said he believes changes in how courts around the country handle these cases are on the way.
“You may see legislation enacted to hold people accountable for just being present when a minor is sexually assaulted and taking no action to prevent it,” Clark said.
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