MODESTO -- Attorneys on Tuesday told a judge they were not able to reach an agreement on a plea deal, so now a 20-year-old man will stand trial accused of premeditated murder in the Modesto shooting death of a 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome.
Authorities have said Richard Maurice Jolly fired the gun that killed Eliazar Hernandez in the aftermath of a violent confrontation between two groups on Oct. 20, 2009. The incident occurred near Lombardo Avenue, just east of South Ninth Street and several blocks south of the Tuolumne River.
A grudge and a fight escalated to the gunfire that killed Eliazar, who was an innocent bystander. The boy and his older brother were riding in the rear seat of a van when gunfire erupted as the vehicle drove away.
Along with the murder count, Jolly is charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting of Eliazar's older brother, Alex Gomez, during the same confrontation.
Since October, the prosecutor and defense attorney negotiated over a plea deal. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira had delayed scheduling the trial so the attorneys could have time to work out a deal.
During Tuesday's hearing, Deputy District Attorney Beth O'Hara Owen started to inform the court about plea deal offers made and rejected when defense attorney Frank Carson told the judge that discussing the offers in open court was not necessary.
Carson said the court was well aware that attempts were made to resolve the case, but an agreement could not be reached. He told the judge that every time the negotiations were discussed in court, that information appeared in the newspaper.
Silveira told Carson that discussing details about negotiations on the record in open court is necessary. She said everyone should be made aware of what plea deal offers were made and rejected when, for example, a jury convicts a defendant who is then sentenced to life in prison.
Nevertheless, the judge granted Carson's request and moved the hearing along without further discussion about the plea deal negotiations.
In late October, The Bee reported that the district attorney's office was willing to agree to a deal only if it would result in a sentence of at least 18 to 21 years in prison. At the time, Owen told the judge that Carson had proposed a plea deal with a 14-year sentence. Counterproposals made after that were not successful.
Carson asked the court to appoint him as defense counsel in Jolly's trial, which means taxpayers would pay for Jolly's attorney. The defendant says he no longer can afford to retain Carson's service.
The defense attorney told the judge that Jolly's family went into debt to retain him for the preliminary hearing and the negotiations to resolve the case. He said Jolly was a minor when he was arrested and has no assets.
Jolly was 16 at the time of the shooting and is being prosecuted as an adult. He remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail.
Carson said his familiarity with the case and working relationship with the defendant would make it appropriate for him to be appointed on the case.
Silveira said she is assuming that Jolly is indigent and is inclined to appoint Carson, but she needs some time to review the defense attorney's request. She scheduled Jolly to return to court Monday to appoint a defense attorney and schedule his trial.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.