On November 9th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. In preparation for oral arguments, JLWOP: Faces & Cases will be an on-going series on The Foundry that will tell real stories about juvenile offenders who are currently serving LWOP sentences.
Defendant: David Garcia (17)
Victims: Fernando Barrera (murdered), Rigoberto Martinez (attempted murder), Isidrio Martinez (attempted murder), Manuel Chavez (attempted murder)
Crimes: Murder with special circumstances and other charges
Crime date: May 19, 2006 in Poplar, California (Tulare County)
Attempting to murder members of a rival gang, David Garcia shot and killed a member of his own.
David Garcia was an active member of the Northern Gang. On May 19, 2006, he and several fellow gang members drove past a residence that they suspected housed members of the rival Southern gang. Their suspicion was confirmed when they spotted Southern gang members and exchanged gang slurs with them. The Southern gang members, fearing an ambush, threw bottles at the vehicle. Garcia and his friends drove down the street, exited the car, and picked up some rocks. They then drove back toward the house and threw rocks at the Southern gang members.
Then they drove to a nearby alley to meet with another Northern gang member, Vincent Cardenas. Garcia informed Cardenas that the rival gang was causing problems. Cardenas handed Garcia with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with lethal buckshot rounds.
Armed with the shotgun, Garcia got back into the car, and they drove back to the Southern gang members’ residence. Vincent Cardenas and his girlfriend followed in a second vehicle. At their destination, they jumped out and rushed the rival gang members, who retreated into the garage. Their rivals closed the garage door and were standing inside holding the door down. Garcia’s fellow gang member Fernando Barrera approached the garage door and attempted to pull it open to allow Garcia a clear shot.
Garcia fired one shot at the door. The rounds pierced the garage door and penetrated the interior walls, nearly hitting a sleeping infant. Garcia and his gang vandalized the vehicles parked in the driveway. They then walked toward their own cars.
When Garcia reached the sidewalk, he turned to fire one more shot at the garage and his rivals inside of it. Just as Garcia pulled the trigger, Barrera stepped into the path of the shot. He died instantly, and Garcia fled.
Apprehended shortly after the murder, Garcia admitted to fighting with the rival gang but denied that anyone had a weapon. At trial, however, members of Garcia’s own gang testified against him. He took the stand in his own defense, but the jury did not believe him. He was convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Charles D. Stimson is Senior Legal Fellow and Andrew M. Grossman is Senior Legal Policy Analyst in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.