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A Golden Hill homeboy gets ready to do some time.

Speedy claims Lomas, the Law claims Speedy

Image by Paul Sievert

When I first saw Raymundo Ruiz, on July 3, 1988, he was walking through the doors of Unit 100, where kids charged with the most violent crimes are separated from the rest of Juvenile Hall. He was only 16 years old, yet there was something in the way he walked and carried his five foot seven, 160-pound body that suggested he had been around and could take care of himself.

Perry and "Speedy," Juvenile Hall. It was during the second trip that one of Raymundo's homegirls, Bunny, received a facial wound when Lalo’s car was fired on, apparently by the Red Steps in the park.

When he got to the guard station, he looked around to see if he recognized anyone among the visitors, and then he stood with his back against the wall, as required by hall rules, staring straight ahead with a blank expression on his face, awaiting orders. “Ruiz, go with her,” the guard said, jerking his head in my direction.

Golden Hill has large Victorian houses, particularly near Golden Hill Drive in Balboa Park where the magnolia trees have been spray painted "I love Speedy," “Lomas 26th Street,” “Speedy,” “Huero.”

We walked down the hallway toward the interview rooms in silence. Occasionally he would surreptitiously glance in my direction. He was trying to figure out who I was.

The Ruizes, with son Angel. In 1965 Alfonso ran for political office in Tijuana, but he left the country when his life was threatened by his opponents. He returned to San Diego and found work as a dry-wall taper.

His mother and father, Alfonso and Elvia Ruiz, had been to my office the previous day and asked me to represent their son. The juvenile petition they handed me indicated he was charged with one count of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of shooting into an inhabited building.

Lomas turf, Glendale Avenue. Mexicans from the rural northern California join Nuestra Familia. They are referred to as farmers by the Mexican Mafia, which includes San Diego Latino gangs, such as Lomas and Red Steps.

Alfonso Ruiz is 55 years old, a short, stocky man who was a boxer in his youth. He was born in San Diego and grew up in Tijuana. When he was 17 he came back to the (J.S. to serve in the U.S. Army, and after his military service, he returned to Tijuana to help out in his father’s gas station. In 1965 Alfonso ran for political office in Tijuana, but he left the country when his life was threatened by his opponents. He returned to San Diego and found work as a dry-wall taper. With him he brought his common-law wife Elvia, a small, short woman with long, dark hair. She still speaks only Spanish. Elvia has nine children, seven by a previous marriage and two by Alfonso. Raymundo is her youngest child and her fifth son to "claim" Lomas.

"They still respect me because they remember what I was like, but I'm not part of the gang anymore." As he said this he glanced down at a large “Lomas 26th Street” tattoo on his arm.

"Raymundo’s a good boy,” Mr. Ruiz told me as I read through the petition. “He should go to New Life, not prison.” New Life is a drug rehabilitation program run by former drug addicts and gang members that attempts to turn around troubled kids through religious teachings. Two of its recent converts are Raymundo's brothers, Jose and Angel.

Raymundo "Speedy" Ruiz: “Everyone is in gangs, even the white guys. They let you wear baggy pants and hair nets. You can make razors out of Walkman batteries and then cut off your pants to make cut-offs.”

The empty cell we had entered measured six feet by ten feet and was furnished with a single bed, a desk with a stool, and a toilet. Just outside the barred window, a group of 20 identically dressed kids ran around the enclosed yard.

Raymundo glanced around the room for the most appropriate place to sit and then flopped himself perpendicularly across the bed with his back resting against the wall and his elbows supporting the weight of his upper torso. I sat on the stool bolted to the desk bolted to the wall. I looked over at him and he glanced away. This was not a person who was big on eye contact.

“You my new lawyer?” he finally asked me as he settled in.

Attorney Perry: I wondered how a jury would react to my theory of the innocent gang member framed by Giggles, the outraged Lomas homegirl who wanted revenge for being jumped out when she went over to Logan Red Steps.

"Yes,” I said, noting that he seemed to accept this without any hesitancy. “I want you to tell me what happened on June 11.”

He looked out the cell window into the enclosed courtyard, glanced over at me for a moment, and then looked down at his stomach, which he rubbed lightly with his fingers as he told his story. “Me and my homeboys were hanging around the hood [neighborhood] when some of my homegirls came up and told us they wanted to jump out [the gang ritual of beating up a member who wants to leave the gang] this girl Giggles, and they wanted us to come along to protect them from the Red Steps. So me and Snoopy and Tripper got into Lalo’s red VW truck and followed the girls down to Chicano Park.” (Lalo, Raymundo's 20-year-old uncle, had also been arrested in connection with the same incident on June 11.)

Chicano Park is between National and Logan avenues and Crosby and Evans streets in Barrio Logan. During the day, much of the park is shaded by the on-ramps to the Coronado Bridge, which soar 50 feet overhead, and local residents use its playground, grassy areas, and picnic tables in peace. At night the park becomes a battleground for the various local gangs whose graffiti is everywhere. Chicano Park is in Red Step territory. Raymundo drew a diagram to show me how Lalo had driven the VW truck down Logan Avenue, parking next to the on-ramp to Interstate 5 across the street from the park.

“Me and the homeboys stayed by the truck while the homegirls went across the street to find Giggles. They started beating her up, and then some of the Red Step homegirls came up and started a fight," he explained without emotion.

"Then some of the guys from Red Steps showed up, and they started coming at us with rocks and bottles and shit,” he said, becoming more agitated. "So I grabbed the shotgun out of the car and shot into the air a couple of times to scare them off.

“Pow, pow,” he said, his forefinger pulling the trigger twice of an imaginary gun he held in his hands.

“Where were you then?” I asked.

"Next to the car.”

“Where were the Red Steps?"

“Across the street in the park.”

“Okay, then what happened?" I had a mental image of him standing next to the truck in a Rambo-like pose, piercing the silence of the night with the warning blasts of the shotgun.

“We went back to my place,” he said, referring to his parents’ home about a quarter of a mile away. "And then some of my homeboys went back to the park, and I don’t know what happened after that.”

“But the police reports say that you went back to the park with your friends.”

“No,” he said, looking unperturbed. “I didn’t go because my hand was hurting.” He showed me his one-inch scar from one of the two times he had accidentally shot himself with a gun.

“Why did your friends tell the police that you went back to the park a second time?" I asked.

"I don’t know.”

“Well, tell me what happened between the first and second trip to the park,” I said. I was hoping for a witness who could provide Raymundo with an alibi.

“Well, after we got back from the park, me and my homeboys were hanging out at my house, and the girls said they wanted us to go back to the park with them. The girls decided to go in Lalo’s car, so we were going to take my homegirl’s car.

“Me and my homeboys walked down the street to the car,” he said, drawing me a diagram to show where it had been parked on Glendale Avenue on the other side of E Street. “But when we got there, my hand started hurting, so I decided to go home.”

"How come no one saw you come back?” I asked.

“ ’Cause I went up E Street and cut down the back alley to the back of my house. I was tired and didn’t want to see anyone.”

“Who went to the park on the second trip?” "Snoopy, Tripper, and Wicked,” he said, using his friends’ gang names.

There was a significant difference in the seriousness of the charges resulting from the first and second trip to the park that night. It was during the second confrontation that someone had fired into a house across the street, endangering the lives of innocent persons. It was also during the second trip that the only injury of the night occurred; one of Raymundo's homegirls, Bunny, received a facial wound when Lalo’s car was fired on, apparently by the Red Steps in the park. For these reasons, it was important to establish that Raymundo had not gone on the second trip.

One of his homegirls had told the police that there were three people in the car on the second trip to the park: Snoopy, Tripper, and Speedy. I wanted to be able to prove that Wicked, not Speedy, was the third occupant of the car. Since most of the witnesses to the events that night had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the various accounts that they had given the police were confused and contradictory. Therefore, it would not necessarily be difficult to establish that Raymundo had gone on only the first visit to the park. However, I would need some testimony as to who was the third occupant of the car on the second visit.

"Will you testify that it was Wicked and not you who was the third person in the car on the second trip to the park that night?" I asked him.

I'll say I went back to the house and went to bed,” he replied, looking down at his arm.

“But will you testify that Wicked went and not you?” I persisted.

“No, he’s my homeboy,” he said calmly, looking directly at me. “I can’t snitch on my homeboy.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz own a two-story home at the end of Glendale Avenue in Golden Hill, which used to be where the rich lived in San Diego. Driving around the area, one can still find large Victorian houses, particularly near Golden Hill Drive in Balboa Park where the magnolia trees have been spray painted "I love Speedy," “Lomas 26th Street,” “Speedy,” “Huero,” and so on. The Lomas gang, of which Speedy and Huero are both members, claims this section of the park and the rest of Golden its territory, which extends from Highway 94 north to the park and from 22nd Street east to 30th Street. (Lomas is the Spanish word for hills.)

The Ruiz house is a modest dwelling. A three-bedroom apartment is on the upper floor, where the Ruiz family lives; a downstairs apartment and storage shed, which has been converted into a one-room apartment, are both rented out.

Glendale Avenue dead ends in front of the house, ants there is a flight of graffiti-covered stairs that takes the pedestrian up to Broadway. The stairs are a Lomas hangout and the site of many of their legendary parties where DJs are hired to provide the rap music.

Most members of Lomas gang are Latino. They grew up together in the same neighborhood and have known each other since they were kids. The gang is divided into several different age groups. A kid starts as a chico in his early teens and then progresses through the ranks of the juniors, the locos, and finally the veteranos or vets. They can remain in it as long as they want — some of the veteranos are more than 30 years old. The gang includes both males and females, but the females are second-class members without voting rights. “Women like to be told what to do,” Raymundo once told me when I asked him about this. “They’re dumber than men."

“If woman are so dumb, then why do you have a woman lawyer?”

“My mother and father got you," he told me, as if this resolved him of all responsibility for the decision.

"Oh, I see. Do you think you’re smarter than me?” I asked.

“No, you went to college, but a guy who has been to college would be smarter than you.”

The Ruiz family is a closely knit one, even though the four daughters have married and moved out of the house. Two of them own a taco shop a few blocks away from the house on Glendale, and they also own their own homes, which they offered to put up for bail for Raymundo. “All the girls in my family turned out good,” he once told me in one of his occasional self-deprecating remarks.

Three of the five sons still live at home, and the other two are currently residing at New Life. All five of them have been members of Lomas, which was founded by Raymundo’s oldest brother Daniel 15 years ago. Daniel was the first one in the family to be arrested. He was sent to Youth Authority, the California prison for juvenile offenders, and he doesn’t remember his stay there as being particularly unpleasant. It did not, however, change his attitude on gangs or gang bangin' (a term that encompasses such gang activities as drug use, drive-by shootings, or hanging out). A few years ago, Daniel fell off a neighbor’s balcony and suffered brain damage as a result. He received a $100,000 settlement, which he has spent, largely on drugs. He still claims Lomas, but he is no longer gang bangin’.

Rolando is Raymundo’s next oldest brother. He is a slight, quiet, shy 24-year-old who is married and lives with his 15-year-old wife Melanie and their two-year-old son in the Ruiz’s house on Glendale. As a result of years of intravenous hard drug use in his youth, Rolando has recently suffered kidney failure and now goes to the hospital three times a week for dialysis treatment. Eventually he will need a kidney transplant. Rolando’s medical problems have made it difficult for him to continue helping his father in the drywall business, and this has exacerbated the financial problems of the family.

Angel, who at 19 years old is the next eldest male member of the family, is the most pugnacious of the lot. He is short and heavyset, like his father, and has what one newspaper reporter described as a “cherub face.” Prior to his Christian conversion, Angel was heavily involved in heroin and gang bangin’. He was shot twice but seldom lost a fight. He is well known to local law enforcement authorities for his history of drug abuse and getting into fights while in custody.

I was at the Ruiz house one day explaining to Angel the problem I was having trying to get the prosecutor to accept a plea bargain in which Raymundo would go to New Life rather than jail. I had always been told that unlike Raymundo, Angel’s problem was drugs, not violence. Mo one seemed to realize that prior to his Christian conversion, Angel was the most violent member of the family, often picking fights for no reason at all. I asked how he managed to fool everyone.

“I didn’t get caught," he said as he lay sprawled out on the couch in the living room. “I wasn’t dumb enough to get out of the car like Raymundo did.

“The first time I got in trouble, they sent me to Juvenile Hall and Campo [a juvenile ranch facility). I maxed out [did the maximum amount of time] at both places. I never got credit for good behavior because I was always getting into trouble. When I got arrested the next time, the judge said to me, ‘You know what I am going to do to you?’ and I said no, and then he showed me what he had written down on a piece of paper: ‘YA.’ That means Youth Authority.” He looked over at me to make sure I understood. “That’s when I decided to give New Life a chance. Raul Garcia [a counselor from the Neighborhood Outreach Community Center] had told me that if I didn’t give New Life a try this time, I would go to prison for sure. So I told the judge I wanted to go to New Life, and he sent me there.”

The judge sentenced Angel but suspended the execution of his sentence on the condition that he complete the New Life drug rehabilitation program. If he had failed to complete the program or violated any of the other conditions of his probation, he would have done his sentence. However, since he successfully completed the New Life program and in fact went on to become a counselor there, he never ended up going to YA. He now hopes to go to school to become an X-ray technician and wants to use his experience to help other gang kids turn their lives around. In December 1988, he received the Napoleon Jones III Outstanding Youth award from the county for his work in preventing juvenile delinquency.

"When I first got to New Life, I just said all the stuff like everyone else did because I didn’t want to go to prison,” Angel said. He sat up on the couch and prepared to launch into what was obviously his favorite story. "But then I decided to give it a chance, and I opened up my heart up to Jesus Christ and he came in and changed my life. Now I’m not rude to my parents, I don't do drugs, I don’t go out with the gang. Oh, I still see them, ’cause they hang out in front of my house, but I’m always telling them they should stop gang bangin' and open up their hearts to the Lord. They still respect me because they remember what I was like, but I'm not part of the gang anymore." As he said this he glanced down at a large “Lomas 26th Street” tattoo on his arm.

Raymundo had told me that he initially thought his brother was crazy when he kept telling everyone about his new-found religion. Angel would come into Raymundo’s room when he was with a girl and tell them that sex was a sin and that they should stop and pray. Since this was the same brother who used to call him a sissy when Raymundo didn’t want to go gang bangin’, the transformation had been hard to understand.

“He just wasn’t ready for it,” Angel said.

One brother who was ready was Jose, the next oldest son in the family, who at 18 is a year older than Raymundo. Jose is short, slight, and has a cheerful face that breaks easily into a smile. He has a reputation for being a good break dancer. When he was arrested for drugs, he chose to go to New Life as his brother did. When he talks about his religious conversion, his voice cracks with emotion. “Religion is the only way to solve the gang problem and the only way to save my brother Raymundo,” he will tell you.

My first court appearance for Raymundo was a juvenile court hearing to determine whether he should be tried as an adult or as a minor. Both the prosecutor and the probation officer were recommending that he be tried as an adult because of his record (two prior misdemeanor convictions, one for being under the influence of PCP and the other for being the driver of vehicle with a loaded firearm in it). He had done six months at Campo for these charges and was arrested for his current charges three months after he was released. Their reasoning was that the juvenile court system already had its opportunity to reform him and failed. They had a point.

A few weeks before the hearing was scheduled, I learned that Raymundo was going to be charged with another two counts of assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a drive-by shooting that took place on May 29, 1988. The police were showing his photo to the victims in a photo lineup, which unlike a physical lineup does not require the presence of defense counsel. I called the police and requested to be present at any photo lineup, fearful that they would use suggestive tactics to get the victims to identify my client. Furthermore, I pointed out to the gang unit of the police department, since Raymundo was incarcerated, it would be just as easy for them to hold a physical lineup at the jail as it would be to have a photo lineup in the field. But since my presence wasn’t required by law, they conducted their photo lineup without me. A week later, I received an amended complaint: the two additional assault charges from the May 29 incident had been added to Raymundo’s charges.

Armed with my new batch of police reports, I headed for Juvenile Hall. “What do you know about the shooting on May 29?” I asked him as we headed down the now-familiar hallway to an empty cell for our interview.

“Nothing,” he said, confirming what his parents had told me the previous day in the office, that he had now been charged with a crime that he knew nothing about. “Some cop came to see me and told me I had been identified by a guy for shooting him in May.”

“Are you sure you don’t know anything about it? Do any of your friends know anything about it?” I was hoping to find someone with the inside story of what had happened.

“My homeboys said they didn’t do it. They said it was one of the other gangs that did it.”

The shooting had taken place at the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and 28th Street in Barrio Logan. According to the police reports, two kids, aged 13 and 16, had been walking down 28th Street about 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night when a car variously described as a blue or brown Buick Regal or Monte Carlo pulled alongside them. The two kids told the police officers that night that they had been blinded by the car’s headlights and couldn't see who shot them.

I relayed this information to Raymundo, who kept looking over my shoulder at the police reports, trying to get the facts straight. When we had reviewed the reports of the June 11 shooting in Chicano Park, he was able to point out errors in the reports; he had been there on the first trip and knew what had happened on the second trip from his friends. With the reports from the May shooting on Ocean View Boulevard, it was clear he was operating in a vacuum, he had no idea what had happened that night.

“Damn,” he finally said. “Thirteen years old.” “Damn is right,” I said. “Do you know where you were May 29?”

He thought for a while, staring out the window with his body slouched across the bed in his usual position with his weight supported on his elbows. “I think I was out cruising with some of my homeboys.”

Slowly it came back to him what he had been doing that night. He and three of his homeboys had gone to a 7-Eleven store near his house to get some beer and had met some girls with a car and rode with them down Highland Avenue to National City, about a 15-minute ride. There he saw some of his friends who were having car trouble, so he got a ride back to his house, borrowed a neighbor’s truck, and returned to National City to pick up his friends. Then he and his friends went to another 7-Eleven store to get some more beer and cruised down Highland Avenue until they were stopped by a cop and ticketed for doing an illegal U-turn. When the officer found the open containers of beer in the car, he took away their car keys and forced them to walk back home.

After I left Juvenile Hall, I went back over to Glendale Avenue to find the guy who had been driving the truck and who had received the ticket. Joel, although unable to remember exactly what night it was, agreed with Raymundo’s story of the events in May. Later, I was able to get a copy of the ticket from the traffic court’s file. The problem was that the time on the ticket was 11:10 p.m. and the shooting occurred at 10:30 p.m. It would take about 20 minutes to drive between the two places in light traffic.

On my next trip to Juvenile Hall, I pointed this out to Raymundo. He said, "But they are different cars. We were in a pickup truck when we got the ticket, and the car at the shooting was a Monte Carlo or something.”

“But that doesn’t mean you couldn't have changed cars after the shooting," I said.

“That would be dumb,” he replied. “If I shot someone, I’m not going to be changing cars and driving around afterward.”

AIthough it was practically a foregone conclusion that Raymundo would be tried as an adult rather than as a juvenile, I fought to stay in the juvenile court system at his jurisdictional hearing. There were several reasons for this. First, I wanted to see how he would do on the witness stand. Second, even though he would get a jury only in the adult system, it would be better for him to stay in the juvenile courts because their statutory goal is to rehabilitate the minor, not to punish him.

Raymundo had been incarcerated a month and a half by this time. He was no longer going to school at Juvenile Hall, preferring to sleep most of the day because it was only then that he forgot where he was and how bored he was. There is no television, radios, or weight-lifting equipment at Juvenile Hall. Inmates are not allowed a pen or pencil in their cells. At Youth Authority, the juvenile prison where the prosecutor wanted to send him, he had heard he could have a radio, a Walkman, and even a small television in his room, if his parents would buy them and bring them to him. He also heard that his parents could provide him with potato chips, cookies, candy bars, and Cup o’Soup, some of the conveniences of modern life. Furthermore, he could smoke there. Raymundo just wanted to get this over with so he could get out of Juvenile Hall.

At the hearing, Juan Sun, the assistant director of New Life, testified that he had interviewed Raymundo and believed he was sincere and that he could be reformed by his group’s drug program as other gang members had been. Raymundo testified that he wanted to change his life with a Christian conversion as his brothers had done. Given the gravity of the offenses facing Raymundo and his prior record, the prosecutor didn’t even bother rebutting our case. Without a lengthy deliberation, the judge found Raymundo was unfit to be tried as a minor and sent his case downtown to the adult court.

Two days later, July 27, we were in felony arraignment. As I waited for Raymundo’s case to be called, a tall, tan man who appeared to be in his late 20s with brown eyes and moderately long, wavy brown hair came over to me with a large file under his arm.

“So you’re Speedy’s lawyer," he said to me, deliberately using Raymundo's gang name as he looked me over, trying to assess his opponent.

“Yes.”

“Hi, I’m Garland Peed. I’ll be prosecuting his case.”

Garland Peed IV, who graduated from the University of San Diego and was admitted to the California Bar in 1982, is a former defense attorney turned prosecutor. He’s not an unreasonable prosecutor.

I gave him one of my business cards, and he glanced down at the address on it. “26th and Imperial,” he said. “That’s pretty heavy down there. Do you carry a gun with you to work?”

“No," I said.

A few minutes later, Raymundo’s case was called, and he emerged from the holding tank in leg irons. He was told that he was being charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of shooting into an inhabited dwelling. The only good news was they were not charging him with attempted murder. His parents offered to put up the equity in their home, $10,000, as bail*in the form of a property bond if the court would let him stay at the New Life rehabilitation center while he awaited trial. Peed told the judge that Raymundo was a documented gang member with a prior record. The judge rejected his parents’ property bond and set his bail at $75,000.

In California, a preliminary hearing must be held within ten days of arraignment unless time is waived by the defendant. Because I had another trial scheduled when his preliminary hearing would have been held, Raymundo agreed to waive time, and the hearing was scheduled for September 6. I used the time to visit the sites of the two shootings and attempt to track down the people who had been there. Both tasks were difficult.

My first problem was that both the Chicano Park and Ocean View Boulevard shootings had taken place in the territory of rival gangs, so there was a lot of local concern when a white, middle-aged woman started walking around Chicano Park examining the graffiti, starring at a Red Step hangout, and taking notes on a pad she was carrying. I was soon confronted by a group of young men who demanded to know what I was doing. Not knowing which gang they might be claiming, I felt it would not be wise to tell them I was trying to help Speedy. So I told them that I was an architectural student drawing a map for the city. They peered suspiciously at my notepad, and then I was allowed to continue my work in peace.

My second problem was trying to get alibi witnesses to come forward. Raymundo was no help, since he knew his homeboys only by their gang nicknames. Fortunately, the police reports contained most of their names, addresses, and phone numbers because they were considered suspects. Calls to their houses were unavailing. Their parents did not want their kids talking to any lawyer to help anyone who was already in jail. Appeals to them through mutual friends was not much better; most of them had a lot to lose by being put in the prosecutor’s limelight, since they were in the country illegally, on probation, or had outstanding warrants out on them. Finally, I realized that even if I did get them to come forward, their testimony would not have much appeal to a jury, particularly because most of them had been on drugs or drinking on the nights in question.

One avenue of hope that remained was that the prosecutor was having the same problem with his witnesses that I was having with mine. After all, they were all gang members too. The police reports for June 11 contained conflicting accounts of what had happened, which could be exploited on cross examination. The police reports for May 29 also clearly indicated that both victims had stated that they had been blinded by the headlights of the car and had been unable to see their assailants.

The problem was that Marcos Monachis, a victim of the May 29 incident on Ocean View Boulevard, had subsequently identified Raymundo in a photo lineup after his friends had shown him which member of Lomas was Speedy, the one thought to be responsible for the June 11 shooting in Chicano Park. Giggles, one of the persons who helped Marcos identify Speedy by pointing him out in photos of the Lomas gang, was the woman who had been jumped out on June 11. I suspected she may have had ulterior motives in her efforts to help Marcos identify Speedy as his attacker.

I asked Peed for a lineup before the preliminary hearing — I didn’t want Marcos' first good look at Raymundo to be when he was sitting next to me at the defense table at the hearing, when it would be clear who he was supposed to identify as his assailant.

The lineup was held at Juvenile Hall on September 2. Two witnesses from the June 11 shooting and Marcos from the May 29 shooting sat in the darkened office of the duty officer, invisible to the six youths we had picked for the lineup. Each inmate came forward with various degrees of nervousness. Raymundo continually glanced up and down the hallway to see what was going on. I watched the three witnesses as they marked their cards. None of them had hesitated. The two witnesses from June 11 said they did not recognize anyone. Marcos identified number 2, Raymundo.

A few minutes later, I was in the interview room with Raymundo. "Marcos identified you.”

"Damn,” he said looking worried.

There was a silence that lasted several minutes. Nothing I could say could take away from the awful impact of that statement.

“What does he look like?” he asked.

"You mean Marcos?” I asked. I had forgotten that Raymundo had been unable to see Marcos through the darkened windows. “He’s short, heavy, and looks a lot older than 13.”

“I wish I knew who he was,” he said, staring out the window.

Four days later, on the day of the preliminary hearing, Marcos did not show up. The prosecutor was given a continuance, since he had subpoenaed Marcos and his absence was not the attorney’s fault.

A ray of hope blossomed in the Ruiz camp. Perhaps Marcos wouldn’t come forward to testify. Without Marcos the case against Raymundo was weak, since no one else had identified him. Furthermore, the other witnesses were being held at Juvenile Hall — probably for shooting Bunny, who was the only one hurt in Chicano Park, and obviously she hadn’t been shot by her homeboys. (Since they were all minors, their records were not made available to other attorneys or to the public.) In any event, I felt they probably wouldn’t have much credibility with the jury.

Our one problem was Marcos. If he was able to convince a jury that he saw who shot him and Armando (the other kid who was shot on May 29) and that it was Raymundo, the jury would be likely to convict Raymundo of the charges from the events in Chicano Park on June 11 as well as May 29. It’s called a spillover effect.

It was about this time that Peed threatened to charge Raymundo with attempted murder if the case was bound over to Superior Court. The offer that was currently on the table was that all charges would be dropped if Raymundo pleaded guilty to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and to the enhancement (an extra prison term, in this case two years) for the use of a firearm. Since assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by two, three, or four years, depending on the circumstances, Raymundo was facing a maximum sentence of six years, or three years actual time (assuming good behavior), which meant he would spend about two years in Youth Authority or state prison after credit for time served between arrest and sentencing. Although legally Peed couldn't increase the charges because we had refused to take his plea bargain, it was clear that after the preliminary hearing he could withdraw the plea bargain or require a harsher sentence if we decided to plea out later.

Raymundo was willing to take the plea bargain, as long as it was agreeable to his father, since his goal was to get out of Juvenile Hall as soon as possible. He felt he could “kick back” at Youth Authority for two years and watch television and pump iron. “Two years isn’t such a long time. I’ll only be 19 when I get out. I can do that. But it’s up to my dad.”

I was always surprised at his willingness to defer to his father’s decision on these matters, since it was Raymundo who would have to do the extra time if we tried to beat the charges and lost. He was so street wise that it was easy to forget that he was still a kid. Getting his father to accept the plea bargain was a different matter. Mr. Ruiz wanted Raymundo to go to New Life and be transformed like Angel and Jose. It was not an unreasonable request in light of the fact that he believed that Raymundo was guilty only of firing a shotgun into the air to scare off rival gang members. The problem was we couldn’t prove it, and getting the family to distinguish between what they believed and what we could prove in court was not easy.

On the day of the rescheduled preliminary hearing, we were assigned to Department 12, Judge Joe Littlejohn, a 51-year-old judge who had been appointed to the Municipal Court bench in 1982 after serving as a teacher and school administrator for 16 years both before and after graduating from the University of San Diego Law School in 1972.

"Where’s Marcos?” I asked Peed casually as we walked down the corridor toward Department 12.

“Upstairs in my office,” he said.

Damn, I said to myself, and then aloud, “Can you give me a few minutes to talk to Raymundo’s parents?”

"Sure, take as much time as you want,” he said. “If you think this case is going to settle, we can take all day.”

After a hurried discussion with Raymundo and his parents, I asked Peed if I could talk to Marcos.

"Sure,” he said. “I’m not trying to hold anything back from you. He’s up in my office with Juan Zamora." Juan was one of the alleged assault victims from June 11.

As we rode up the elevator together, Peed chatted about the long hours he was putting in these days and how assault cases were a dime a dozen now. We emerged on the fifth floor and walked down the hallway to the special gang prosecutorial unit. Peed waved at the receptionist, who buzzed us in through the special bulletproof locked door. We went into the library, where two kids were busy drawing on sheets of paper.

"Marcos, this is Rory Perry. She wants to talk to you," Peed said.

Marcos looked up from his drawing. His face still had a childhood innocence about it that my client’s no longer had.

“Marcos, show her your scar.”

Marcos pulled up his shirt and revealed several rolls of fat and a scar the size of a baseball, surrounded by 20 or 30 little scars from the shotgun pellets.

Damn, I thought to myself. When the jury sees that, it's all over.

“Marcos,” Peed said, “who shot you?”

“Speedy from Lomas shot me,” he replied without a moment’s hesitation.

“Do you have any reason to hate Speedy?” he asked Marcos.

“No.”

"Who do you hate from Lomas?”

“Lobo,” he said, indicating the gang name of another member of Lomas.

“How far away was Speedy when he shot you?” Peed asked.

“As far away as from me to that lady.” He pointed to me. I was sitting about three or four feet away from him.

Damn, I thought, even with the street lights behind him, it's going to be hard to believe he didn’t get a glimpse of the person who shot him. Besides, you can tell from the size of that scar that they were within a couple of feet. “Marcos,” I said, “tell me how it happened.”

“Me and Armando were walking down 28th Street when this car pulled up, and at first I thought they were friends of ours, and then they shot Armando in the arm and me in the back.”

“Did they say anything?”

“I think they yelled ‘Lomas’ or something.”

“Are you a member of a gang?” I asked him.

“Oh huh, Logan Red Steps.”

At this point I noted with interest that the prosecutor’s blackboard had been covered with gang graffiti by the two kids and smiled at the irony of it. By now the other kid, Juan Zamora, had gotten tired of coloring and started banging on the typewriter with both hands, as a kid does with a piano when he has no idea how to play it. It was going to be hard to portray these two as heavies.

“Did anyone ever show you a picture of Speedy?” I asked Marcos, hoping to find out that the detective who had photographed Raymundo at Juvenile Hall shortly before the lineup had improperly shown him the picture to facilitate his identification.

“When they showed me the other pictures," he said, meaning the photo lineup he had been shown by the police.

“But did they ever show you any pictures of him besides that?” I asked him, trying to appear casual.

"No, just that lady.” The lady was Giggles, the former Lomas homegirl.

“Did the lady show you a picture of Speedy alone or with someone else?” I asked.

"With the rest of the Lomas gang,” he said, referring to the time that Giggles had pointed out to him which member of Lomas was Speedy, weeks after both drive-by shootings and shortly before he was finally able to identify his assailant to the police.

I wondered how a jury would react to my theory of the innocent gang member framed by Giggles, the outraged Lomas homegirl who wanted revenge for being jumped out when she went over to Logan Red Steps. I might have had a chance if I didn’t have a 13-year-old victim with a hell of a scar.

I went back to the second floor and talked to my client. The guard let us use the jury room, and we all sat around the oblong conference table, Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz on one side, Raymundo in his navy blue jail clothes handcuffed to a chair on the other side, and me at the head of the table.

“Marcos is going to testify at the hearing that he is sure it was Raymundo who shot him and Armando,” I told them.

Mr. Ruiz let out a sigh of exasperation. “Who is this kid?" he asked me. “Why is he doing this to Raymundo?”

“He’s a Red Step; his gang name is Spooks. His family has moved out of Barrio Logan. I think his father has put a lot of pressure on him to come forward.”

Mr. Ruiz translated this into Spanish for Mrs. Ruiz, who looked very worried. Turning to Raymundo he said, “Well, what do you want to do? It’s up to you.”

Raymundo’s legs starting moving back and forth with nervous tension. “Want to take the plea?” he asked his parents in Spanish. “I can do two years — that’s not a long time.”

“Okay, if that’s what you want,” his father said with bitter resignation.

“Uh huh,” Raymundo nodded his head. He was relieved that the decision had been made and that he wouldn’t have to testify in court.

Mrs. Ruiz still had not said anything, but it was clear from the lines on her face that this was not easy for her.

“Well, do you need us anymore now?” Mr. Ruiz asked me. “I need to get back to work. It’s still early yet.” He looked at his watch.

“Go ahead,” I told him. “We need to fill out a plea bargain agreement with the prosecutor, but you don’t need to stay for that.”

The parents got up to leave. Mrs. Ruiz came over and kissed her son on his cheek, and they left. An hour later, Raymundo was on his way back to Juvenile Hall, and although it was all over, I didn’t feel right. It’s hard to cop a plea for someone you believe is innocent, even if it’s the best deal you can get for him.

aymundo’s sentencing hearing was set for October 12.

I was still trying to get Raymundo into New Life. My sentencing request was that the five-year sentence of our plea bargain be imposed but that the execution of Raymundo’s sentence be stayed if he completed the New Life Program and remained at the New Life Center for the five-year probation period.

Judge Littlejohn had the power to do this if he found this was an "unusual case." One of the situations that qualifies as an unusual case and justifies probation under California law is if “the crime was committed because of psychological or psychiatric problems not amounting to a defense, that psychological or psychiatric treatment will be required as a condition of probation, and that the court is convinced that treatment has a high likelihood of being successful and that the defendant will not be a danger to others.”

I prepared a ten-page sentencing memorandum detailing how Raymundo had no criminal record prior to the time that he began using PCP at age 15. “PCP makes me feel like I can do anything.” Raymundo had told his probation officer. It was clear that Raymundo was psychologically addicted to PCP: he returned to drug use every time he got out of jail, though he knew that he got in trouble because of it. The problem was that smoking PCP was an important part of the Lomas gang subculture, and all his friends were members of Lomas. When the juvenile court had sentenced Raymundo to serve time at Campo, where he was able to hang out with fellow gang members, it had not done anything to help Raymundo change his way of life. Nor would Judge Littlejohn if he sent him to YA or state prison, each of which had its own gangs. If the judge really wanted to change Raymundo, I argued, he should send him to New Life, which has a successful track record — particularly with Raymundo’s family — of breaking the gang connection and giving the kid a new social group with different values. Raymundo’s willingness to conform to whatever group he found himself in had already been demonstrated. The key was to put him in a socially acceptable peer group, not an antisocial one.

Raymundo was very excited about the sentencing hearing. I told him that his brothers were going to testify on his behalf. He was reading the Bible in his cell and going to church services at Juvenile Hall. I asked Angel to visit him there. “If he’s not sincere,” I told Angel, “it would be better for him just to go to YA and get it over with."

“Okay," Angel told me. “I know him. He won’t be able to fool me.”

After visiting him, Angel agreed with me that Raymundo was ready to put himself in the hands of the Lord if he was given the chance. He knew his life was going nowhere as a member of Lomas, but he needed help to get out. He wanted New Life to give him the strength to break away, he wanted once more to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, this time for the better. Now I had to persuade the judge or the prosecutor to give Raymundo the chance to prove himself.

Raymundo was very excited about the sentencing hearing. I told him that his brothers were going to testify on his behalf. He was reading the Bible in his cell and going to church services at Juvenile Hall. I asked Angel to visit him there. “If he’s not sincere,” I told Angel, “it would be better for him just to go to YA and get it over with."

“Okay," Angel told me. “I know him. He won’t be able to fool me.”

After visiting him, Angel agreed with me that Raymundo was ready to put himself in the hands of the Lord if he was given the chance. He knew his life was going nowhere as a member of Lomas, but he needed help to get out. He wanted New Life to give him the strength to break away, he wanted once more to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, this time for the better. Now I had to persuade the judge or the prosecutor to give Raymundo the chance to prove himself.

Are you going to join the Mexican gang at YA if you get sent there?” I asked Raymundo one day while we were discussing his sentencing memorandum at Juvenile Hall.

“I have to,” he told me. “I won’t have any protection if I don't. I don’t want to get hurt."

There are two Mexican prison gangs. One is the Nuestra Familia, which Mexicans from the rural communities of northern California join. They are referred to as farmers by the other gang, the Mexican Mafia, whose members come from the urban areas of Southern California. The Mexican Mafia includes members of all the various San Diego Latino gangs, such as Lomas and Red Steps, who are rivals outside prison but inside are forced to stick together to fight off the other prison gangs.

I wondered if Raymundo would be able to put aside his hatred of Red Steps while he was in prison. I had seen him react violently and instinctively to a Red Step inmate who had flashed hand signals at him as we were walking down the hall at Juvenile Hall one afternoon. We were in the middle of a conversation when I looked over and saw that his body had gone tense in a matter of seconds. He had been ready to attack before I had a chance to realize what was going on. It was like animal instinct.

He also told me about a wide-ranging set of prison rules that he would be expected to conform to as a member of one of the gangs. His cellmate, who had already been there, had told him what to expect. “If you drop your soap in the shower, you aren’t allowed to pick it up,” he told me.

"Why not?”

“Because it’s the rule.”

Raymundo never questions “the rule,” never wonders what the reason is behind it. That it’s the rule is good enough for him. I had argued in his sentencing memorandum that because Raymundo was a follower, not a leader, if he was put in a group with the right set of rules, i.e., New Life, his antisocial behavior would cease.

“If they tell you to do something, you have to do it, otherwise they’ll gang up on you with these,” he said, indicating the metal bars underneath the cot mattress in the interview room. “They break these off and sharpen them and use them as weapons.”

“Raymundo, if you get in trouble in prison, you’ll max out, you’ll do the whole five years,” I told him.

“I can’t help that. I have to do what the gang tells me to do, or they’ll beat me up.”

“Can’t you just not join the gang?”

“I won't have any protection.”

He was right. It is well documented that the California Youth Authority, originally conceived as an institution with special programs to rehabilitate the juvenile offender, is now so overcrowded and understaffed that new inmates must join a gang for self-protection from the rampant gang violence that the prison guards are unable or unwilling to stop.

I had discussed the possibility of Raymundo’s going to New Life on more than one occasion with Garland Peed, the prosecutor. Even though he had given Raymundo a reasonable plea bargain, he was adamant that Raymundo should go to YA.

“Garland, you can’t seriously believe that YA is going to help Raymundo,” I said, thinking of YA’s 70 percent recidivism rate.

“No, I don’t,” he told me. “I think it’s too late to change him. His character has already been formed.”

"But he's only 17. He’s a kid, for Pete’s sake. All I’m asking is that execution of his sentence be suspended and that he be given a chance to prove himself at New Life. If he doesn’t complete the New Life program, he’ll do his sentence.”

“He’s had his chance. They sent him to Campo, and three months after he got out, this happened.”

“But he's innocent of those charges. I just can’t prove it.”

‘I'm sorry, I can’t help you. He’s got to do time for this one.”

At this point in the conversation, Peed always got nervous. I was never certain if this meant he was afraid of my powers of persuasion or if he was uncomfortable at some level with his decision.

The day before the sentencing hearing, I got the probation officer’s report. He recommended the maximum time, six years, in state prison. His report had been done so hastily that he had only given Raymundo credit for half the time he had served in prison so far, and he had misrepresented his prior record as four misdemeanors rather than two. However, the damage had been done: his recommendation for this 17-year-old was state prison. Raymundo, whose only prior crimes were possession of a shotgun and being under the influence of PCP, should not be given another chance, he said.

The sentencing hearing was a tearful affair. At the outset of the hearing, the judge announced that he had read the probation officer’s report and my sentencing memorandum (the prosecutor hadn’t bothered to file a report — the probation officer had done his work for him) and that he was prepared to send Raymundo to the YA diagnostic center as he was required to do by law if he is going to sentence Raymundo to state prison. He would, however, hear the testimony of the witnesses I had brought to the hearing.

First was Raul Garcia, a representative from one of the local community centers that works in Southeast San Diego, where the gangs are prevalent. Garcia testified that in his opinion, it would be better for the community if Raymundo went to New Life, which has had a great deal of success in turning around gang members, rather than to YA or state prison, where antisocial behavior is only reinforced.

Then Juan Sun, the assistant director of New Life, testified that he used to be a heroin dealer and a gang member and that he had been unable to break out of this behavior pattern until the Lord came into his life and changed him.

Then Angel and Jose told the judge how the Lord had changed their lives and how they knew that if the judge would give Raymundo a chance, he could change his life as well. The testimony of the two brothers was so moving that even Raymundo’s eyes were watering.

“I don’t want you to think your testimony has fallen on deaf ears,” the judge told them. “It hasn’t. I am a Christian, too. But all you’ve given me are truisms. If anyone can help Raymundo, it is the Lord.” With that, he ordered him to the YA diagnostic center for evaluation.

On January 11, 1989, I received a copy of the report, prepared by the YA psychiatrist and case workers who had been assigned to Raymundo. They confirmed what I believed all along: he was a follower, not a leader. He became a gang member at age 14 because his brothers and friends were gang members; he did drugs for the same reason. The conclusion was that Raymundo was so entrenched in gang subculture that it was unlikely his stay at YA would reduce his criminal behavior pattern.

I drove up to Juvenile Hall to find out what Raymundo thought of the report. As soon as we got to the interview room, he showed me the new Lomas tattoo he’d inked on his leg during his six-week stay at YA. “So what did you think of YA?” I asked.

“It’s cool up there; it’s kick-back.”

That he fared better at YA was evident from the expression on his face. “Everyone is in gangs, even the white guys. They let you wear baggy pants and hair nets. You can make razors out of Walkman batteries and then cut off your pants to make cut-offs.” He showed me how far down his legs his cut-offs had gone. “You can have your own food in your room, and you can listen to your own music there.” His parents had brought him a Walkman and his rap tapes.

“Then you don’t mind so much being confined to your room because you have everything you need?”

“I didn’t want to come back. I hate it here,” he said, scowling as he looked out the window and across the courtyard to the 100 wing of Juvenile Hall.

“You still want to go to New Life, or would you rather go to YA?”

“No, I want to go to New Life.”

“So you think you can still give up gangs?” I asked, eyeing the new tattoo with suspicion.

“Yeah, if I go to New Life.”

“How about if you go to YA?”

“I don't know.”

On January 12, 1989, Raymundo was sentenced by Judge Littlejohn to five years in state prison. He would do his time (two years after presentence and good-time credits) at Youth Authority under a code section that allows youthful offenders sentenced to state prison to be housed at YA with individuals their own age.

The names of some of the juveniles in this story have been changed.

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The awe of Yosemite, I black out at opera, despicable Godspell, awful Joan Sutherland
Image by Paul Sievert

When I first saw Raymundo Ruiz, on July 3, 1988, he was walking through the doors of Unit 100, where kids charged with the most violent crimes are separated from the rest of Juvenile Hall. He was only 16 years old, yet there was something in the way he walked and carried his five foot seven, 160-pound body that suggested he had been around and could take care of himself.

Perry and "Speedy," Juvenile Hall. It was during the second trip that one of Raymundo's homegirls, Bunny, received a facial wound when Lalo’s car was fired on, apparently by the Red Steps in the park.

When he got to the guard station, he looked around to see if he recognized anyone among the visitors, and then he stood with his back against the wall, as required by hall rules, staring straight ahead with a blank expression on his face, awaiting orders. “Ruiz, go with her,” the guard said, jerking his head in my direction.

Golden Hill has large Victorian houses, particularly near Golden Hill Drive in Balboa Park where the magnolia trees have been spray painted "I love Speedy," “Lomas 26th Street,” “Speedy,” “Huero.”

We walked down the hallway toward the interview rooms in silence. Occasionally he would surreptitiously glance in my direction. He was trying to figure out who I was.

The Ruizes, with son Angel. In 1965 Alfonso ran for political office in Tijuana, but he left the country when his life was threatened by his opponents. He returned to San Diego and found work as a dry-wall taper.

His mother and father, Alfonso and Elvia Ruiz, had been to my office the previous day and asked me to represent their son. The juvenile petition they handed me indicated he was charged with one count of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of shooting into an inhabited building.

Lomas turf, Glendale Avenue. Mexicans from the rural northern California join Nuestra Familia. They are referred to as farmers by the Mexican Mafia, which includes San Diego Latino gangs, such as Lomas and Red Steps.

Alfonso Ruiz is 55 years old, a short, stocky man who was a boxer in his youth. He was born in San Diego and grew up in Tijuana. When he was 17 he came back to the (J.S. to serve in the U.S. Army, and after his military service, he returned to Tijuana to help out in his father’s gas station. In 1965 Alfonso ran for political office in Tijuana, but he left the country when his life was threatened by his opponents. He returned to San Diego and found work as a dry-wall taper. With him he brought his common-law wife Elvia, a small, short woman with long, dark hair. She still speaks only Spanish. Elvia has nine children, seven by a previous marriage and two by Alfonso. Raymundo is her youngest child and her fifth son to "claim" Lomas.

"They still respect me because they remember what I was like, but I'm not part of the gang anymore." As he said this he glanced down at a large “Lomas 26th Street” tattoo on his arm.

"Raymundo’s a good boy,” Mr. Ruiz told me as I read through the petition. “He should go to New Life, not prison.” New Life is a drug rehabilitation program run by former drug addicts and gang members that attempts to turn around troubled kids through religious teachings. Two of its recent converts are Raymundo's brothers, Jose and Angel.

Raymundo "Speedy" Ruiz: “Everyone is in gangs, even the white guys. They let you wear baggy pants and hair nets. You can make razors out of Walkman batteries and then cut off your pants to make cut-offs.”

The empty cell we had entered measured six feet by ten feet and was furnished with a single bed, a desk with a stool, and a toilet. Just outside the barred window, a group of 20 identically dressed kids ran around the enclosed yard.

Raymundo glanced around the room for the most appropriate place to sit and then flopped himself perpendicularly across the bed with his back resting against the wall and his elbows supporting the weight of his upper torso. I sat on the stool bolted to the desk bolted to the wall. I looked over at him and he glanced away. This was not a person who was big on eye contact.

“You my new lawyer?” he finally asked me as he settled in.

Attorney Perry: I wondered how a jury would react to my theory of the innocent gang member framed by Giggles, the outraged Lomas homegirl who wanted revenge for being jumped out when she went over to Logan Red Steps.

"Yes,” I said, noting that he seemed to accept this without any hesitancy. “I want you to tell me what happened on June 11.”

He looked out the cell window into the enclosed courtyard, glanced over at me for a moment, and then looked down at his stomach, which he rubbed lightly with his fingers as he told his story. “Me and my homeboys were hanging around the hood [neighborhood] when some of my homegirls came up and told us they wanted to jump out [the gang ritual of beating up a member who wants to leave the gang] this girl Giggles, and they wanted us to come along to protect them from the Red Steps. So me and Snoopy and Tripper got into Lalo’s red VW truck and followed the girls down to Chicano Park.” (Lalo, Raymundo's 20-year-old uncle, had also been arrested in connection with the same incident on June 11.)

Chicano Park is between National and Logan avenues and Crosby and Evans streets in Barrio Logan. During the day, much of the park is shaded by the on-ramps to the Coronado Bridge, which soar 50 feet overhead, and local residents use its playground, grassy areas, and picnic tables in peace. At night the park becomes a battleground for the various local gangs whose graffiti is everywhere. Chicano Park is in Red Step territory. Raymundo drew a diagram to show me how Lalo had driven the VW truck down Logan Avenue, parking next to the on-ramp to Interstate 5 across the street from the park.

“Me and the homeboys stayed by the truck while the homegirls went across the street to find Giggles. They started beating her up, and then some of the Red Step homegirls came up and started a fight," he explained without emotion.

"Then some of the guys from Red Steps showed up, and they started coming at us with rocks and bottles and shit,” he said, becoming more agitated. "So I grabbed the shotgun out of the car and shot into the air a couple of times to scare them off.

“Pow, pow,” he said, his forefinger pulling the trigger twice of an imaginary gun he held in his hands.

“Where were you then?” I asked.

"Next to the car.”

“Where were the Red Steps?"

“Across the street in the park.”

“Okay, then what happened?" I had a mental image of him standing next to the truck in a Rambo-like pose, piercing the silence of the night with the warning blasts of the shotgun.

“We went back to my place,” he said, referring to his parents’ home about a quarter of a mile away. "And then some of my homeboys went back to the park, and I don’t know what happened after that.”

“But the police reports say that you went back to the park with your friends.”

“No,” he said, looking unperturbed. “I didn’t go because my hand was hurting.” He showed me his one-inch scar from one of the two times he had accidentally shot himself with a gun.

“Why did your friends tell the police that you went back to the park a second time?" I asked.

"I don’t know.”

“Well, tell me what happened between the first and second trip to the park,” I said. I was hoping for a witness who could provide Raymundo with an alibi.

“Well, after we got back from the park, me and my homeboys were hanging out at my house, and the girls said they wanted us to go back to the park with them. The girls decided to go in Lalo’s car, so we were going to take my homegirl’s car.

“Me and my homeboys walked down the street to the car,” he said, drawing me a diagram to show where it had been parked on Glendale Avenue on the other side of E Street. “But when we got there, my hand started hurting, so I decided to go home.”

"How come no one saw you come back?” I asked.

“ ’Cause I went up E Street and cut down the back alley to the back of my house. I was tired and didn’t want to see anyone.”

“Who went to the park on the second trip?” "Snoopy, Tripper, and Wicked,” he said, using his friends’ gang names.

There was a significant difference in the seriousness of the charges resulting from the first and second trip to the park that night. It was during the second confrontation that someone had fired into a house across the street, endangering the lives of innocent persons. It was also during the second trip that the only injury of the night occurred; one of Raymundo's homegirls, Bunny, received a facial wound when Lalo’s car was fired on, apparently by the Red Steps in the park. For these reasons, it was important to establish that Raymundo had not gone on the second trip.

One of his homegirls had told the police that there were three people in the car on the second trip to the park: Snoopy, Tripper, and Speedy. I wanted to be able to prove that Wicked, not Speedy, was the third occupant of the car. Since most of the witnesses to the events that night had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the various accounts that they had given the police were confused and contradictory. Therefore, it would not necessarily be difficult to establish that Raymundo had gone on only the first visit to the park. However, I would need some testimony as to who was the third occupant of the car on the second visit.

"Will you testify that it was Wicked and not you who was the third person in the car on the second trip to the park that night?" I asked him.

I'll say I went back to the house and went to bed,” he replied, looking down at his arm.

“But will you testify that Wicked went and not you?” I persisted.

“No, he’s my homeboy,” he said calmly, looking directly at me. “I can’t snitch on my homeboy.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz own a two-story home at the end of Glendale Avenue in Golden Hill, which used to be where the rich lived in San Diego. Driving around the area, one can still find large Victorian houses, particularly near Golden Hill Drive in Balboa Park where the magnolia trees have been spray painted "I love Speedy," “Lomas 26th Street,” “Speedy,” “Huero,” and so on. The Lomas gang, of which Speedy and Huero are both members, claims this section of the park and the rest of Golden its territory, which extends from Highway 94 north to the park and from 22nd Street east to 30th Street. (Lomas is the Spanish word for hills.)

The Ruiz house is a modest dwelling. A three-bedroom apartment is on the upper floor, where the Ruiz family lives; a downstairs apartment and storage shed, which has been converted into a one-room apartment, are both rented out.

Glendale Avenue dead ends in front of the house, ants there is a flight of graffiti-covered stairs that takes the pedestrian up to Broadway. The stairs are a Lomas hangout and the site of many of their legendary parties where DJs are hired to provide the rap music.

Most members of Lomas gang are Latino. They grew up together in the same neighborhood and have known each other since they were kids. The gang is divided into several different age groups. A kid starts as a chico in his early teens and then progresses through the ranks of the juniors, the locos, and finally the veteranos or vets. They can remain in it as long as they want — some of the veteranos are more than 30 years old. The gang includes both males and females, but the females are second-class members without voting rights. “Women like to be told what to do,” Raymundo once told me when I asked him about this. “They’re dumber than men."

“If woman are so dumb, then why do you have a woman lawyer?”

“My mother and father got you," he told me, as if this resolved him of all responsibility for the decision.

"Oh, I see. Do you think you’re smarter than me?” I asked.

“No, you went to college, but a guy who has been to college would be smarter than you.”

The Ruiz family is a closely knit one, even though the four daughters have married and moved out of the house. Two of them own a taco shop a few blocks away from the house on Glendale, and they also own their own homes, which they offered to put up for bail for Raymundo. “All the girls in my family turned out good,” he once told me in one of his occasional self-deprecating remarks.

Three of the five sons still live at home, and the other two are currently residing at New Life. All five of them have been members of Lomas, which was founded by Raymundo’s oldest brother Daniel 15 years ago. Daniel was the first one in the family to be arrested. He was sent to Youth Authority, the California prison for juvenile offenders, and he doesn’t remember his stay there as being particularly unpleasant. It did not, however, change his attitude on gangs or gang bangin' (a term that encompasses such gang activities as drug use, drive-by shootings, or hanging out). A few years ago, Daniel fell off a neighbor’s balcony and suffered brain damage as a result. He received a $100,000 settlement, which he has spent, largely on drugs. He still claims Lomas, but he is no longer gang bangin’.

Rolando is Raymundo’s next oldest brother. He is a slight, quiet, shy 24-year-old who is married and lives with his 15-year-old wife Melanie and their two-year-old son in the Ruiz’s house on Glendale. As a result of years of intravenous hard drug use in his youth, Rolando has recently suffered kidney failure and now goes to the hospital three times a week for dialysis treatment. Eventually he will need a kidney transplant. Rolando’s medical problems have made it difficult for him to continue helping his father in the drywall business, and this has exacerbated the financial problems of the family.

Angel, who at 19 years old is the next eldest male member of the family, is the most pugnacious of the lot. He is short and heavyset, like his father, and has what one newspaper reporter described as a “cherub face.” Prior to his Christian conversion, Angel was heavily involved in heroin and gang bangin’. He was shot twice but seldom lost a fight. He is well known to local law enforcement authorities for his history of drug abuse and getting into fights while in custody.

I was at the Ruiz house one day explaining to Angel the problem I was having trying to get the prosecutor to accept a plea bargain in which Raymundo would go to New Life rather than jail. I had always been told that unlike Raymundo, Angel’s problem was drugs, not violence. Mo one seemed to realize that prior to his Christian conversion, Angel was the most violent member of the family, often picking fights for no reason at all. I asked how he managed to fool everyone.

“I didn’t get caught," he said as he lay sprawled out on the couch in the living room. “I wasn’t dumb enough to get out of the car like Raymundo did.

“The first time I got in trouble, they sent me to Juvenile Hall and Campo [a juvenile ranch facility). I maxed out [did the maximum amount of time] at both places. I never got credit for good behavior because I was always getting into trouble. When I got arrested the next time, the judge said to me, ‘You know what I am going to do to you?’ and I said no, and then he showed me what he had written down on a piece of paper: ‘YA.’ That means Youth Authority.” He looked over at me to make sure I understood. “That’s when I decided to give New Life a chance. Raul Garcia [a counselor from the Neighborhood Outreach Community Center] had told me that if I didn’t give New Life a try this time, I would go to prison for sure. So I told the judge I wanted to go to New Life, and he sent me there.”

The judge sentenced Angel but suspended the execution of his sentence on the condition that he complete the New Life drug rehabilitation program. If he had failed to complete the program or violated any of the other conditions of his probation, he would have done his sentence. However, since he successfully completed the New Life program and in fact went on to become a counselor there, he never ended up going to YA. He now hopes to go to school to become an X-ray technician and wants to use his experience to help other gang kids turn their lives around. In December 1988, he received the Napoleon Jones III Outstanding Youth award from the county for his work in preventing juvenile delinquency.

"When I first got to New Life, I just said all the stuff like everyone else did because I didn’t want to go to prison,” Angel said. He sat up on the couch and prepared to launch into what was obviously his favorite story. "But then I decided to give it a chance, and I opened up my heart up to Jesus Christ and he came in and changed my life. Now I’m not rude to my parents, I don't do drugs, I don’t go out with the gang. Oh, I still see them, ’cause they hang out in front of my house, but I’m always telling them they should stop gang bangin' and open up their hearts to the Lord. They still respect me because they remember what I was like, but I'm not part of the gang anymore." As he said this he glanced down at a large “Lomas 26th Street” tattoo on his arm.

Raymundo had told me that he initially thought his brother was crazy when he kept telling everyone about his new-found religion. Angel would come into Raymundo’s room when he was with a girl and tell them that sex was a sin and that they should stop and pray. Since this was the same brother who used to call him a sissy when Raymundo didn’t want to go gang bangin’, the transformation had been hard to understand.

“He just wasn’t ready for it,” Angel said.

One brother who was ready was Jose, the next oldest son in the family, who at 18 is a year older than Raymundo. Jose is short, slight, and has a cheerful face that breaks easily into a smile. He has a reputation for being a good break dancer. When he was arrested for drugs, he chose to go to New Life as his brother did. When he talks about his religious conversion, his voice cracks with emotion. “Religion is the only way to solve the gang problem and the only way to save my brother Raymundo,” he will tell you.

My first court appearance for Raymundo was a juvenile court hearing to determine whether he should be tried as an adult or as a minor. Both the prosecutor and the probation officer were recommending that he be tried as an adult because of his record (two prior misdemeanor convictions, one for being under the influence of PCP and the other for being the driver of vehicle with a loaded firearm in it). He had done six months at Campo for these charges and was arrested for his current charges three months after he was released. Their reasoning was that the juvenile court system already had its opportunity to reform him and failed. They had a point.

A few weeks before the hearing was scheduled, I learned that Raymundo was going to be charged with another two counts of assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a drive-by shooting that took place on May 29, 1988. The police were showing his photo to the victims in a photo lineup, which unlike a physical lineup does not require the presence of defense counsel. I called the police and requested to be present at any photo lineup, fearful that they would use suggestive tactics to get the victims to identify my client. Furthermore, I pointed out to the gang unit of the police department, since Raymundo was incarcerated, it would be just as easy for them to hold a physical lineup at the jail as it would be to have a photo lineup in the field. But since my presence wasn’t required by law, they conducted their photo lineup without me. A week later, I received an amended complaint: the two additional assault charges from the May 29 incident had been added to Raymundo’s charges.

Armed with my new batch of police reports, I headed for Juvenile Hall. “What do you know about the shooting on May 29?” I asked him as we headed down the now-familiar hallway to an empty cell for our interview.

“Nothing,” he said, confirming what his parents had told me the previous day in the office, that he had now been charged with a crime that he knew nothing about. “Some cop came to see me and told me I had been identified by a guy for shooting him in May.”

“Are you sure you don’t know anything about it? Do any of your friends know anything about it?” I was hoping to find someone with the inside story of what had happened.

“My homeboys said they didn’t do it. They said it was one of the other gangs that did it.”

The shooting had taken place at the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and 28th Street in Barrio Logan. According to the police reports, two kids, aged 13 and 16, had been walking down 28th Street about 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night when a car variously described as a blue or brown Buick Regal or Monte Carlo pulled alongside them. The two kids told the police officers that night that they had been blinded by the car’s headlights and couldn't see who shot them.

I relayed this information to Raymundo, who kept looking over my shoulder at the police reports, trying to get the facts straight. When we had reviewed the reports of the June 11 shooting in Chicano Park, he was able to point out errors in the reports; he had been there on the first trip and knew what had happened on the second trip from his friends. With the reports from the May shooting on Ocean View Boulevard, it was clear he was operating in a vacuum, he had no idea what had happened that night.

“Damn,” he finally said. “Thirteen years old.” “Damn is right,” I said. “Do you know where you were May 29?”

He thought for a while, staring out the window with his body slouched across the bed in his usual position with his weight supported on his elbows. “I think I was out cruising with some of my homeboys.”

Slowly it came back to him what he had been doing that night. He and three of his homeboys had gone to a 7-Eleven store near his house to get some beer and had met some girls with a car and rode with them down Highland Avenue to National City, about a 15-minute ride. There he saw some of his friends who were having car trouble, so he got a ride back to his house, borrowed a neighbor’s truck, and returned to National City to pick up his friends. Then he and his friends went to another 7-Eleven store to get some more beer and cruised down Highland Avenue until they were stopped by a cop and ticketed for doing an illegal U-turn. When the officer found the open containers of beer in the car, he took away their car keys and forced them to walk back home.

After I left Juvenile Hall, I went back over to Glendale Avenue to find the guy who had been driving the truck and who had received the ticket. Joel, although unable to remember exactly what night it was, agreed with Raymundo’s story of the events in May. Later, I was able to get a copy of the ticket from the traffic court’s file. The problem was that the time on the ticket was 11:10 p.m. and the shooting occurred at 10:30 p.m. It would take about 20 minutes to drive between the two places in light traffic.

On my next trip to Juvenile Hall, I pointed this out to Raymundo. He said, "But they are different cars. We were in a pickup truck when we got the ticket, and the car at the shooting was a Monte Carlo or something.”

“But that doesn’t mean you couldn't have changed cars after the shooting," I said.

“That would be dumb,” he replied. “If I shot someone, I’m not going to be changing cars and driving around afterward.”

AIthough it was practically a foregone conclusion that Raymundo would be tried as an adult rather than as a juvenile, I fought to stay in the juvenile court system at his jurisdictional hearing. There were several reasons for this. First, I wanted to see how he would do on the witness stand. Second, even though he would get a jury only in the adult system, it would be better for him to stay in the juvenile courts because their statutory goal is to rehabilitate the minor, not to punish him.

Raymundo had been incarcerated a month and a half by this time. He was no longer going to school at Juvenile Hall, preferring to sleep most of the day because it was only then that he forgot where he was and how bored he was. There is no television, radios, or weight-lifting equipment at Juvenile Hall. Inmates are not allowed a pen or pencil in their cells. At Youth Authority, the juvenile prison where the prosecutor wanted to send him, he had heard he could have a radio, a Walkman, and even a small television in his room, if his parents would buy them and bring them to him. He also heard that his parents could provide him with potato chips, cookies, candy bars, and Cup o’Soup, some of the conveniences of modern life. Furthermore, he could smoke there. Raymundo just wanted to get this over with so he could get out of Juvenile Hall.

At the hearing, Juan Sun, the assistant director of New Life, testified that he had interviewed Raymundo and believed he was sincere and that he could be reformed by his group’s drug program as other gang members had been. Raymundo testified that he wanted to change his life with a Christian conversion as his brothers had done. Given the gravity of the offenses facing Raymundo and his prior record, the prosecutor didn’t even bother rebutting our case. Without a lengthy deliberation, the judge found Raymundo was unfit to be tried as a minor and sent his case downtown to the adult court.

Two days later, July 27, we were in felony arraignment. As I waited for Raymundo’s case to be called, a tall, tan man who appeared to be in his late 20s with brown eyes and moderately long, wavy brown hair came over to me with a large file under his arm.

“So you’re Speedy’s lawyer," he said to me, deliberately using Raymundo's gang name as he looked me over, trying to assess his opponent.

“Yes.”

“Hi, I’m Garland Peed. I’ll be prosecuting his case.”

Garland Peed IV, who graduated from the University of San Diego and was admitted to the California Bar in 1982, is a former defense attorney turned prosecutor. He’s not an unreasonable prosecutor.

I gave him one of my business cards, and he glanced down at the address on it. “26th and Imperial,” he said. “That’s pretty heavy down there. Do you carry a gun with you to work?”

“No," I said.

A few minutes later, Raymundo’s case was called, and he emerged from the holding tank in leg irons. He was told that he was being charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of shooting into an inhabited dwelling. The only good news was they were not charging him with attempted murder. His parents offered to put up the equity in their home, $10,000, as bail*in the form of a property bond if the court would let him stay at the New Life rehabilitation center while he awaited trial. Peed told the judge that Raymundo was a documented gang member with a prior record. The judge rejected his parents’ property bond and set his bail at $75,000.

In California, a preliminary hearing must be held within ten days of arraignment unless time is waived by the defendant. Because I had another trial scheduled when his preliminary hearing would have been held, Raymundo agreed to waive time, and the hearing was scheduled for September 6. I used the time to visit the sites of the two shootings and attempt to track down the people who had been there. Both tasks were difficult.

My first problem was that both the Chicano Park and Ocean View Boulevard shootings had taken place in the territory of rival gangs, so there was a lot of local concern when a white, middle-aged woman started walking around Chicano Park examining the graffiti, starring at a Red Step hangout, and taking notes on a pad she was carrying. I was soon confronted by a group of young men who demanded to know what I was doing. Not knowing which gang they might be claiming, I felt it would not be wise to tell them I was trying to help Speedy. So I told them that I was an architectural student drawing a map for the city. They peered suspiciously at my notepad, and then I was allowed to continue my work in peace.

My second problem was trying to get alibi witnesses to come forward. Raymundo was no help, since he knew his homeboys only by their gang nicknames. Fortunately, the police reports contained most of their names, addresses, and phone numbers because they were considered suspects. Calls to their houses were unavailing. Their parents did not want their kids talking to any lawyer to help anyone who was already in jail. Appeals to them through mutual friends was not much better; most of them had a lot to lose by being put in the prosecutor’s limelight, since they were in the country illegally, on probation, or had outstanding warrants out on them. Finally, I realized that even if I did get them to come forward, their testimony would not have much appeal to a jury, particularly because most of them had been on drugs or drinking on the nights in question.

One avenue of hope that remained was that the prosecutor was having the same problem with his witnesses that I was having with mine. After all, they were all gang members too. The police reports for June 11 contained conflicting accounts of what had happened, which could be exploited on cross examination. The police reports for May 29 also clearly indicated that both victims had stated that they had been blinded by the headlights of the car and had been unable to see their assailants.

The problem was that Marcos Monachis, a victim of the May 29 incident on Ocean View Boulevard, had subsequently identified Raymundo in a photo lineup after his friends had shown him which member of Lomas was Speedy, the one thought to be responsible for the June 11 shooting in Chicano Park. Giggles, one of the persons who helped Marcos identify Speedy by pointing him out in photos of the Lomas gang, was the woman who had been jumped out on June 11. I suspected she may have had ulterior motives in her efforts to help Marcos identify Speedy as his attacker.

I asked Peed for a lineup before the preliminary hearing — I didn’t want Marcos' first good look at Raymundo to be when he was sitting next to me at the defense table at the hearing, when it would be clear who he was supposed to identify as his assailant.

The lineup was held at Juvenile Hall on September 2. Two witnesses from the June 11 shooting and Marcos from the May 29 shooting sat in the darkened office of the duty officer, invisible to the six youths we had picked for the lineup. Each inmate came forward with various degrees of nervousness. Raymundo continually glanced up and down the hallway to see what was going on. I watched the three witnesses as they marked their cards. None of them had hesitated. The two witnesses from June 11 said they did not recognize anyone. Marcos identified number 2, Raymundo.

A few minutes later, I was in the interview room with Raymundo. "Marcos identified you.”

"Damn,” he said looking worried.

There was a silence that lasted several minutes. Nothing I could say could take away from the awful impact of that statement.

“What does he look like?” he asked.

"You mean Marcos?” I asked. I had forgotten that Raymundo had been unable to see Marcos through the darkened windows. “He’s short, heavy, and looks a lot older than 13.”

“I wish I knew who he was,” he said, staring out the window.

Four days later, on the day of the preliminary hearing, Marcos did not show up. The prosecutor was given a continuance, since he had subpoenaed Marcos and his absence was not the attorney’s fault.

A ray of hope blossomed in the Ruiz camp. Perhaps Marcos wouldn’t come forward to testify. Without Marcos the case against Raymundo was weak, since no one else had identified him. Furthermore, the other witnesses were being held at Juvenile Hall — probably for shooting Bunny, who was the only one hurt in Chicano Park, and obviously she hadn’t been shot by her homeboys. (Since they were all minors, their records were not made available to other attorneys or to the public.) In any event, I felt they probably wouldn’t have much credibility with the jury.

Our one problem was Marcos. If he was able to convince a jury that he saw who shot him and Armando (the other kid who was shot on May 29) and that it was Raymundo, the jury would be likely to convict Raymundo of the charges from the events in Chicano Park on June 11 as well as May 29. It’s called a spillover effect.

It was about this time that Peed threatened to charge Raymundo with attempted murder if the case was bound over to Superior Court. The offer that was currently on the table was that all charges would be dropped if Raymundo pleaded guilty to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and to the enhancement (an extra prison term, in this case two years) for the use of a firearm. Since assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by two, three, or four years, depending on the circumstances, Raymundo was facing a maximum sentence of six years, or three years actual time (assuming good behavior), which meant he would spend about two years in Youth Authority or state prison after credit for time served between arrest and sentencing. Although legally Peed couldn't increase the charges because we had refused to take his plea bargain, it was clear that after the preliminary hearing he could withdraw the plea bargain or require a harsher sentence if we decided to plea out later.

Raymundo was willing to take the plea bargain, as long as it was agreeable to his father, since his goal was to get out of Juvenile Hall as soon as possible. He felt he could “kick back” at Youth Authority for two years and watch television and pump iron. “Two years isn’t such a long time. I’ll only be 19 when I get out. I can do that. But it’s up to my dad.”

I was always surprised at his willingness to defer to his father’s decision on these matters, since it was Raymundo who would have to do the extra time if we tried to beat the charges and lost. He was so street wise that it was easy to forget that he was still a kid. Getting his father to accept the plea bargain was a different matter. Mr. Ruiz wanted Raymundo to go to New Life and be transformed like Angel and Jose. It was not an unreasonable request in light of the fact that he believed that Raymundo was guilty only of firing a shotgun into the air to scare off rival gang members. The problem was we couldn’t prove it, and getting the family to distinguish between what they believed and what we could prove in court was not easy.

On the day of the rescheduled preliminary hearing, we were assigned to Department 12, Judge Joe Littlejohn, a 51-year-old judge who had been appointed to the Municipal Court bench in 1982 after serving as a teacher and school administrator for 16 years both before and after graduating from the University of San Diego Law School in 1972.

"Where’s Marcos?” I asked Peed casually as we walked down the corridor toward Department 12.

“Upstairs in my office,” he said.

Damn, I said to myself, and then aloud, “Can you give me a few minutes to talk to Raymundo’s parents?”

"Sure, take as much time as you want,” he said. “If you think this case is going to settle, we can take all day.”

After a hurried discussion with Raymundo and his parents, I asked Peed if I could talk to Marcos.

"Sure,” he said. “I’m not trying to hold anything back from you. He’s up in my office with Juan Zamora." Juan was one of the alleged assault victims from June 11.

As we rode up the elevator together, Peed chatted about the long hours he was putting in these days and how assault cases were a dime a dozen now. We emerged on the fifth floor and walked down the hallway to the special gang prosecutorial unit. Peed waved at the receptionist, who buzzed us in through the special bulletproof locked door. We went into the library, where two kids were busy drawing on sheets of paper.

"Marcos, this is Rory Perry. She wants to talk to you," Peed said.

Marcos looked up from his drawing. His face still had a childhood innocence about it that my client’s no longer had.

“Marcos, show her your scar.”

Marcos pulled up his shirt and revealed several rolls of fat and a scar the size of a baseball, surrounded by 20 or 30 little scars from the shotgun pellets.

Damn, I thought to myself. When the jury sees that, it's all over.

“Marcos,” Peed said, “who shot you?”

“Speedy from Lomas shot me,” he replied without a moment’s hesitation.

“Do you have any reason to hate Speedy?” he asked Marcos.

“No.”

"Who do you hate from Lomas?”

“Lobo,” he said, indicating the gang name of another member of Lomas.

“How far away was Speedy when he shot you?” Peed asked.

“As far away as from me to that lady.” He pointed to me. I was sitting about three or four feet away from him.

Damn, I thought, even with the street lights behind him, it's going to be hard to believe he didn’t get a glimpse of the person who shot him. Besides, you can tell from the size of that scar that they were within a couple of feet. “Marcos,” I said, “tell me how it happened.”

“Me and Armando were walking down 28th Street when this car pulled up, and at first I thought they were friends of ours, and then they shot Armando in the arm and me in the back.”

“Did they say anything?”

“I think they yelled ‘Lomas’ or something.”

“Are you a member of a gang?” I asked him.

“Oh huh, Logan Red Steps.”

At this point I noted with interest that the prosecutor’s blackboard had been covered with gang graffiti by the two kids and smiled at the irony of it. By now the other kid, Juan Zamora, had gotten tired of coloring and started banging on the typewriter with both hands, as a kid does with a piano when he has no idea how to play it. It was going to be hard to portray these two as heavies.

“Did anyone ever show you a picture of Speedy?” I asked Marcos, hoping to find out that the detective who had photographed Raymundo at Juvenile Hall shortly before the lineup had improperly shown him the picture to facilitate his identification.

“When they showed me the other pictures," he said, meaning the photo lineup he had been shown by the police.

“But did they ever show you any pictures of him besides that?” I asked him, trying to appear casual.

"No, just that lady.” The lady was Giggles, the former Lomas homegirl.

“Did the lady show you a picture of Speedy alone or with someone else?” I asked.

"With the rest of the Lomas gang,” he said, referring to the time that Giggles had pointed out to him which member of Lomas was Speedy, weeks after both drive-by shootings and shortly before he was finally able to identify his assailant to the police.

I wondered how a jury would react to my theory of the innocent gang member framed by Giggles, the outraged Lomas homegirl who wanted revenge for being jumped out when she went over to Logan Red Steps. I might have had a chance if I didn’t have a 13-year-old victim with a hell of a scar.

I went back to the second floor and talked to my client. The guard let us use the jury room, and we all sat around the oblong conference table, Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz on one side, Raymundo in his navy blue jail clothes handcuffed to a chair on the other side, and me at the head of the table.

“Marcos is going to testify at the hearing that he is sure it was Raymundo who shot him and Armando,” I told them.

Mr. Ruiz let out a sigh of exasperation. “Who is this kid?" he asked me. “Why is he doing this to Raymundo?”

“He’s a Red Step; his gang name is Spooks. His family has moved out of Barrio Logan. I think his father has put a lot of pressure on him to come forward.”

Mr. Ruiz translated this into Spanish for Mrs. Ruiz, who looked very worried. Turning to Raymundo he said, “Well, what do you want to do? It’s up to you.”

Raymundo’s legs starting moving back and forth with nervous tension. “Want to take the plea?” he asked his parents in Spanish. “I can do two years — that’s not a long time.”

“Okay, if that’s what you want,” his father said with bitter resignation.

“Uh huh,” Raymundo nodded his head. He was relieved that the decision had been made and that he wouldn’t have to testify in court.

Mrs. Ruiz still had not said anything, but it was clear from the lines on her face that this was not easy for her.

“Well, do you need us anymore now?” Mr. Ruiz asked me. “I need to get back to work. It’s still early yet.” He looked at his watch.

“Go ahead,” I told him. “We need to fill out a plea bargain agreement with the prosecutor, but you don’t need to stay for that.”

The parents got up to leave. Mrs. Ruiz came over and kissed her son on his cheek, and they left. An hour later, Raymundo was on his way back to Juvenile Hall, and although it was all over, I didn’t feel right. It’s hard to cop a plea for someone you believe is innocent, even if it’s the best deal you can get for him.

aymundo’s sentencing hearing was set for October 12.

I was still trying to get Raymundo into New Life. My sentencing request was that the five-year sentence of our plea bargain be imposed but that the execution of Raymundo’s sentence be stayed if he completed the New Life Program and remained at the New Life Center for the five-year probation period.

Judge Littlejohn had the power to do this if he found this was an "unusual case." One of the situations that qualifies as an unusual case and justifies probation under California law is if “the crime was committed because of psychological or psychiatric problems not amounting to a defense, that psychological or psychiatric treatment will be required as a condition of probation, and that the court is convinced that treatment has a high likelihood of being successful and that the defendant will not be a danger to others.”

I prepared a ten-page sentencing memorandum detailing how Raymundo had no criminal record prior to the time that he began using PCP at age 15. “PCP makes me feel like I can do anything.” Raymundo had told his probation officer. It was clear that Raymundo was psychologically addicted to PCP: he returned to drug use every time he got out of jail, though he knew that he got in trouble because of it. The problem was that smoking PCP was an important part of the Lomas gang subculture, and all his friends were members of Lomas. When the juvenile court had sentenced Raymundo to serve time at Campo, where he was able to hang out with fellow gang members, it had not done anything to help Raymundo change his way of life. Nor would Judge Littlejohn if he sent him to YA or state prison, each of which had its own gangs. If the judge really wanted to change Raymundo, I argued, he should send him to New Life, which has a successful track record — particularly with Raymundo’s family — of breaking the gang connection and giving the kid a new social group with different values. Raymundo’s willingness to conform to whatever group he found himself in had already been demonstrated. The key was to put him in a socially acceptable peer group, not an antisocial one.

Raymundo was very excited about the sentencing hearing. I told him that his brothers were going to testify on his behalf. He was reading the Bible in his cell and going to church services at Juvenile Hall. I asked Angel to visit him there. “If he’s not sincere,” I told Angel, “it would be better for him just to go to YA and get it over with."

“Okay," Angel told me. “I know him. He won’t be able to fool me.”

After visiting him, Angel agreed with me that Raymundo was ready to put himself in the hands of the Lord if he was given the chance. He knew his life was going nowhere as a member of Lomas, but he needed help to get out. He wanted New Life to give him the strength to break away, he wanted once more to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, this time for the better. Now I had to persuade the judge or the prosecutor to give Raymundo the chance to prove himself.

Raymundo was very excited about the sentencing hearing. I told him that his brothers were going to testify on his behalf. He was reading the Bible in his cell and going to church services at Juvenile Hall. I asked Angel to visit him there. “If he’s not sincere,” I told Angel, “it would be better for him just to go to YA and get it over with."

“Okay," Angel told me. “I know him. He won’t be able to fool me.”

After visiting him, Angel agreed with me that Raymundo was ready to put himself in the hands of the Lord if he was given the chance. He knew his life was going nowhere as a member of Lomas, but he needed help to get out. He wanted New Life to give him the strength to break away, he wanted once more to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, this time for the better. Now I had to persuade the judge or the prosecutor to give Raymundo the chance to prove himself.

Are you going to join the Mexican gang at YA if you get sent there?” I asked Raymundo one day while we were discussing his sentencing memorandum at Juvenile Hall.

“I have to,” he told me. “I won’t have any protection if I don't. I don’t want to get hurt."

There are two Mexican prison gangs. One is the Nuestra Familia, which Mexicans from the rural communities of northern California join. They are referred to as farmers by the other gang, the Mexican Mafia, whose members come from the urban areas of Southern California. The Mexican Mafia includes members of all the various San Diego Latino gangs, such as Lomas and Red Steps, who are rivals outside prison but inside are forced to stick together to fight off the other prison gangs.

I wondered if Raymundo would be able to put aside his hatred of Red Steps while he was in prison. I had seen him react violently and instinctively to a Red Step inmate who had flashed hand signals at him as we were walking down the hall at Juvenile Hall one afternoon. We were in the middle of a conversation when I looked over and saw that his body had gone tense in a matter of seconds. He had been ready to attack before I had a chance to realize what was going on. It was like animal instinct.

He also told me about a wide-ranging set of prison rules that he would be expected to conform to as a member of one of the gangs. His cellmate, who had already been there, had told him what to expect. “If you drop your soap in the shower, you aren’t allowed to pick it up,” he told me.

"Why not?”

“Because it’s the rule.”

Raymundo never questions “the rule,” never wonders what the reason is behind it. That it’s the rule is good enough for him. I had argued in his sentencing memorandum that because Raymundo was a follower, not a leader, if he was put in a group with the right set of rules, i.e., New Life, his antisocial behavior would cease.

“If they tell you to do something, you have to do it, otherwise they’ll gang up on you with these,” he said, indicating the metal bars underneath the cot mattress in the interview room. “They break these off and sharpen them and use them as weapons.”

“Raymundo, if you get in trouble in prison, you’ll max out, you’ll do the whole five years,” I told him.

“I can’t help that. I have to do what the gang tells me to do, or they’ll beat me up.”

“Can’t you just not join the gang?”

“I won't have any protection.”

He was right. It is well documented that the California Youth Authority, originally conceived as an institution with special programs to rehabilitate the juvenile offender, is now so overcrowded and understaffed that new inmates must join a gang for self-protection from the rampant gang violence that the prison guards are unable or unwilling to stop.

I had discussed the possibility of Raymundo’s going to New Life on more than one occasion with Garland Peed, the prosecutor. Even though he had given Raymundo a reasonable plea bargain, he was adamant that Raymundo should go to YA.

“Garland, you can’t seriously believe that YA is going to help Raymundo,” I said, thinking of YA’s 70 percent recidivism rate.

“No, I don’t,” he told me. “I think it’s too late to change him. His character has already been formed.”

"But he's only 17. He’s a kid, for Pete’s sake. All I’m asking is that execution of his sentence be suspended and that he be given a chance to prove himself at New Life. If he doesn’t complete the New Life program, he’ll do his sentence.”

“He’s had his chance. They sent him to Campo, and three months after he got out, this happened.”

“But he's innocent of those charges. I just can’t prove it.”

‘I'm sorry, I can’t help you. He’s got to do time for this one.”

At this point in the conversation, Peed always got nervous. I was never certain if this meant he was afraid of my powers of persuasion or if he was uncomfortable at some level with his decision.

The day before the sentencing hearing, I got the probation officer’s report. He recommended the maximum time, six years, in state prison. His report had been done so hastily that he had only given Raymundo credit for half the time he had served in prison so far, and he had misrepresented his prior record as four misdemeanors rather than two. However, the damage had been done: his recommendation for this 17-year-old was state prison. Raymundo, whose only prior crimes were possession of a shotgun and being under the influence of PCP, should not be given another chance, he said.

The sentencing hearing was a tearful affair. At the outset of the hearing, the judge announced that he had read the probation officer’s report and my sentencing memorandum (the prosecutor hadn’t bothered to file a report — the probation officer had done his work for him) and that he was prepared to send Raymundo to the YA diagnostic center as he was required to do by law if he is going to sentence Raymundo to state prison. He would, however, hear the testimony of the witnesses I had brought to the hearing.

First was Raul Garcia, a representative from one of the local community centers that works in Southeast San Diego, where the gangs are prevalent. Garcia testified that in his opinion, it would be better for the community if Raymundo went to New Life, which has had a great deal of success in turning around gang members, rather than to YA or state prison, where antisocial behavior is only reinforced.

Then Juan Sun, the assistant director of New Life, testified that he used to be a heroin dealer and a gang member and that he had been unable to break out of this behavior pattern until the Lord came into his life and changed him.

Then Angel and Jose told the judge how the Lord had changed their lives and how they knew that if the judge would give Raymundo a chance, he could change his life as well. The testimony of the two brothers was so moving that even Raymundo’s eyes were watering.

“I don’t want you to think your testimony has fallen on deaf ears,” the judge told them. “It hasn’t. I am a Christian, too. But all you’ve given me are truisms. If anyone can help Raymundo, it is the Lord.” With that, he ordered him to the YA diagnostic center for evaluation.

On January 11, 1989, I received a copy of the report, prepared by the YA psychiatrist and case workers who had been assigned to Raymundo. They confirmed what I believed all along: he was a follower, not a leader. He became a gang member at age 14 because his brothers and friends were gang members; he did drugs for the same reason. The conclusion was that Raymundo was so entrenched in gang subculture that it was unlikely his stay at YA would reduce his criminal behavior pattern.

I drove up to Juvenile Hall to find out what Raymundo thought of the report. As soon as we got to the interview room, he showed me the new Lomas tattoo he’d inked on his leg during his six-week stay at YA. “So what did you think of YA?” I asked.

“It’s cool up there; it’s kick-back.”

That he fared better at YA was evident from the expression on his face. “Everyone is in gangs, even the white guys. They let you wear baggy pants and hair nets. You can make razors out of Walkman batteries and then cut off your pants to make cut-offs.” He showed me how far down his legs his cut-offs had gone. “You can have your own food in your room, and you can listen to your own music there.” His parents had brought him a Walkman and his rap tapes.

“Then you don’t mind so much being confined to your room because you have everything you need?”

“I didn’t want to come back. I hate it here,” he said, scowling as he looked out the window and across the courtyard to the 100 wing of Juvenile Hall.

“You still want to go to New Life, or would you rather go to YA?”

“No, I want to go to New Life.”

“So you think you can still give up gangs?” I asked, eyeing the new tattoo with suspicion.

“Yeah, if I go to New Life.”

“How about if you go to YA?”

“I don't know.”

On January 12, 1989, Raymundo was sentenced by Judge Littlejohn to five years in state prison. He would do his time (two years after presentence and good-time credits) at Youth Authority under a code section that allows youthful offenders sentenced to state prison to be housed at YA with individuals their own age.

The names of some of the juveniles in this story have been changed.

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