FRESNO, Calif. (KGET) — An appellate court has overturned the murder conviction of a man who was found guilty in the 2016 shooting of a rival gang member in Delano and sentenced to life without parole.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal found there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts against Jose Anibal Medrano as the case against him was built mostly around the testimony of a co-defendant who took a plea deal to avoid the possibility of life in prison.
There was little else other than the co-defendant’s testimony linking Medrano to the crime, the court said in its ruling Tuesday.
The court noted the co-defendant said he would lie in order to avoid life in prison. He testified against Medrano in exchange for a nine-year prison term.
In overturning Medrano’s convictions, the court said he cannot be retried under the double jeopardy clause. It ordered an acquittal be entered on each of the four charges of which he was convicted, meaning Medrano will soon be a free man.
Medrano, 25, and Pete Santiago, 24, were each charged with murder and other crimes in the Aug. 24, 2016, slaying of Orlando Morales.
Morales, 34, was found dead inside a vehicle that had left the roadway and overturned at 11th Avenue and Glenwood Street. He died from a gunshot wound.
Santiago pleaded no contest to a charge of assault with a firearm on a person in exchange for the dismissal of other charges, including murder. He also agreed to testify for the prosecution.
A jury in 2017 convicted Medrano of first-degree murder, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and two gang-related charges.