By Robin Fornoff
Albert Ramirez’s sobbing during closing arguments Friday turned into accusations of an unfair trial when a District Court jury found him guilty of the 2007 first-degree murder of his mother’s boyfriend, Eladio Robledo, 39, of Clovis.
Ramirez’s tirade erupted after Judge Teddy Hartley refused to let him read a statement into the record once the jury was excused.
“We let you speak all week long,” said Hartley.
“I want this in the record,” Ramirez shouted as sheriff’s deputies ushered him out of the courtroom, Hartley shutting his chamber door behind him while prosecutors busied themselves packing up a week’s worth of boxes and files from the trial.
His voice raising, Ramirez said, “I didn’t get a fair trial but that’s the way you all do it.” Then, from the hallway, he shouted “God Bless you all.”
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated about three hours before handing their verdict to Hartley. One juror wept. Another wiped tears from her eyes as Hartley read it aloud, then polled each juror.
The conviction means mandatory life in prison for Ramirez.
District Attorney Matt Chandler asked for immediate sentencing. Hartley held off because the jury also found Ramirez guilty of two felony counts of tampering with evidence for tossing the murder weapon — a .22 caliber pistol never found — and his bloody clothing into an alley trash bin after shooting Robledo.
The judge said he wanted to see a pre-sentence report on Ramirez before deciding whether to give him the maximum three years on each tampering count.
There was never any doubt who fired two bullets into Robledo’s chest, then finished him off with two more shots in the head. Ramirez admitted it after taking the witness stand Thursday against defense attorney Jesse Cosby’s advice.
Ramirez said he was defending himself from Robledo, who, he claimed, backhanded him across the face, hit him with his fist, then choked him.
During closing arguments, Chandler called Ramirez a cold -blooded killer who went to Robledo’s home on west Sixth Street and gunned him down. He said Ramirez was angry for being kicked out of the home, then flashed graphic photos of Robledo’s head wounds and a time line of the crime on a screen for jurors.
Ramirez sobbed and daubed his eyes with tissue through much of Chandler’s closing.
Chandler noted Ramirez paid a stranger to buy bullets from Walmart the day before the murder. He told jurors there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support Ramirez’s story of being attacked by Robledo.
Ramirez had no bruises on his body or scratches on his neck, he said. Robledo’s hands weren’t bruised and toxicologists didn’t find any of Ramirez’s DNA when they clipped the dead man’s long fingernails and tested them.
“There’s no question who is the aggressor here,” Chandler said, turning from the jury and pointing at Ramirez across the courtroom. “That’s a man who snuck up on another man he was ready to murder.”
Cosby called his client a “man-child” at the time of the killing, a case that has lingered in the court system six years because of Ramirez’s mental issues his family calls real and Chandler and a state psychiatrist called fake.
“Yes, legally he is a man,” said Cosby. “But at the time … he was an 18 year old man-child.”
Making reference to Ramirez’s continued outbursts and disruptions throughout the trial, Cosby added, “As you can tell, even now at 25 he is not … a grown man.
“They got into an argument,” said Cosby. “That’s all it was. It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t premeditated. It wasn’t an ambush.”
Premeditation played a major factor in Hartley’s instructions before sending jurors off for a lunch of pizza and their final determination. The judge said if they didn’t find evidence of premeditation, jurors couldn’t find Ramirez guilty of first-degree murder. He gave them options of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter to consider as well.
After the verdict, Chandler thanked the jury and said Ramirez was a dangerous man who would now spend the rest of his life in prison “where he belongs.”