Judge rejects defendant split

Judge rejects defendant split
Concerns of jury prejudice denied in Aguirre case. Trial date will be set March 26.
By Darleene Barrientos

March 13, 2004

LOS ANGELES — A judge denied a motion Friday to give separate trials to the two men accused of killing Hoover High School student Raul Aguirre, and ordered the lawyers to return March 26 to set a trial date.

Judge Michael M. Johnson said he was skeptical about a defense lawyer’s basis for the motion to split the defense of 19-year-old Rafael Gevorgyan and 21-year-old Karen Terteryan. Andrew Flier, who is Gevorgyan’s defense attorney, had argued that splitting the cases was necessary to prevent any prejudice that might result from being tried alongside Terteryan.

Gevorgyan is accused of hitting 17-year-old Aguirre on the head with a tire iron when Aguirre tried to intervene in what prosecutors called a gang fight. Aguirre’s former co-worker, Jimmy Orozco, had testified in trial he was once a gang member and had flashed gang signs at Terteryan as their car drove by Hoover High School on May 5, 2000.

The fight ended up across the street in front of Toll Middle School, where Terteryan, then 17, is accused of stabbing Aguirre four times. Aguirre was not a gang member, police have said.

Flier argued that even though the last jury acquitted his client of street terrorism charges, being tried alongside Terteryan would be confusing for the jury when it came time to decide on a verdict.

“If we sever it, I think we’ll see a very quick verdict,” Flier told the judge.

Mark Geragos, Terteryan’s attorney, also argued for separating the cases, saying that Gevorgyan’s acquittal will prejudice a jury against his own client. Geragos asked Johnson to consider splitting the defense or at least the allegations of street terrorism against both defendants.

Johnson dismissed the attorneys’ misgivings, saying that one jury had already been able to separate one defendant from the other.

“The jury was able to weigh the evidence and apply the law [in a way] they thought was faithful to the facts. I just don’t see the prejudice,” he said.

On Nov. 7, a jury deadlocked on whether to find the defendants guilty of first-degree murder and Johnson declared a mistrial.

The district attorney’s office has reportedly offered a plea bargain to the defendants. Deputy Dist. Atty. Darrell Mavis declined to comment regarding a possible plea deal. Flier said that his client had received the proposal, but would not take any plea bargain. Geragos declined to confirm or deny that his client was offered a plea deal and would not say whether his client would be interested in such a deal.

“I think the more immediate issue is scheduling,” Geragos said. If the trial date were set within the next few months, one of Geragos’ associates, Shepard Kopp, would defend Terteryan.

Geragos is set to begin defending Modesto resident Scott Peterson — accused of murdering his wife and unborn son — this month in a trial estimated to last several months.

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