FRESNO, Calif. (KGET) — A Delano man’s murder convictions were upheld by an appellate court that found his right against self-incrimination wasn’t violated when the trial court allowed his confession into evidence.
Carlos Razo Cervantes, 36, will continue to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole following the ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeal. He was convicted two years ago in the shooting deaths of Jeffrey Eric Villegas, 51, and Jose Ceja, 30.
Cervantes argued on appeal that changes in the penal code requiring electronic recordings of certain statements made while in custody applied retroactively to him. Specifically, the penal code now says interrogations of all people suspected of committing murder must be recorded in their entirety. There are certain exceptions listed in the code.
The confession made by Cervantes was recorded on a cellphone in four separate clips, according to the appellate court opinion filed Wednesday.
The court, however, found the amended portions of the code did not apply retroactively to exclude Cervantes’ confession.
Cervantes also argued his confession was made involuntarily and the court should not have admitted it at at trial. In their opinion, the appellate judges noted Cervantes wasn’t offered any benefit in exchange for his confession, and police didn’t force him to confess. They found he made the confession voluntarily.
“Nothing about the characteristics of the accused or the conditions of the interrogation suggest defendant’s will was overborne when he confessed,” the opinion says.
Villegas and Ceja were killed in Delano on Sept. 4, 2016. Video from a home security system connected Cervantes to the killings, and he admitted to shooting the men during an interview at police headquarters three days later.
Cervantes told investigators he killed Villegas because the other man was “living better than him,” and he shot Cejas because he was a witness. He also told police Villegas owed him $2,100 for building a wall.
As the guilty verdicts were read at his 2018 trial, Cervantes created a commotion when he tried to walk out of the courtroom. He had approached the jury when deputies grabbed him and used a Taser to subdue him.