Jury decides against death penalty in 11-year-old's death
RIVERSIDE — Jurors decided Wednesday that a man convicted last month of killing an 11-year-old boy would be spared the death penalty.
Martin Leyva Valdez, 24, will likely be sentenced to life in prison on March 25 by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios J. Hernandez II. In a retrial that ended on Dec. 27, after another jury deadlocked earlier last year, jurors found Valdez guilty of murdering Maximiliano Miranda inside his home on Christmas Day 2005.
The 11-year-old, who was killed while watching television with his family, was struck by a bullet that went through the wall of his home.
Valdez, a gang member, was convicted of six felonies including murder and three counts of attempted murder. During the trial, Valdez had testified he was drunk. During testimony, Valdez said his gunfire was intended for a rival gang.
He told jurors that, while attempting to avenge the shooting of his own fellow gang members one day earlier, he fired into the Mirandas’ home.
The Miranda family, who had no apparent gang ties according to police, had moved to Riverside from Garden Grove only days before the attack.
During the trial, Maximiliano’s mother, Jacqueline Torres, testified that he had stumbled into the living room before collapsing. Torres told jurors that she held him in her arms after he had been shot.
In a court transcript, Torres said, “I felt as if my life had been taken away … I felt like I was living a bad dream, a nightmare.”
While Valdez’s attorneys had argued for manslaughter, prosecutors pushed for the death penalty.
“This is an example of how truly innocent victims are killed because of gangs,” said prosecutor Samah Shouka. “This child was at home, not on the street. They don’t come any more innocent that Max Miranda.”
During the trial, Hernandez ordered some of Valdez’s family and friends to stay away from the trial after comments were made to jurors and Shouka. One court official said there were at least three outbursts during the trial.