Prosecutors seek death penalty for Riverside gang member accused of murder

The Desert Sun wire services • July 31, 2008

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a documented Riverside gang member accused of fatally shooting a 23-year-old father of three in front of his home, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said today.

“This was a senseless murder of a young… father of three,” Pacheco
said in reference to the May 2 slaying of Raymond Franklin in Riverside. “The
impact of the loss to Raymond Franklin’s family, as well as to the community,
leaves no other choice but to seek the death penalty in this case.”

Jesse Manzo, 21, is charged with first-degree murder, perpetrating a crime to further the interests of a street gang, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and similar sentence-enhancing allegations in connection with Franklin’s death, according to a criminal complaint.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Manzo has established ties
to the East Side Riva street gang, described by authorities as Riverside’s
oldest and most violent gang.

In January, a Riverside County Superior Court judge granted a request for a permanent injunction against the gang, prohibiting its members from congregating in public, staying out past 10 p.m., wearing gang insignia, or conducting any other activity that might be construed as gang-related.

The request was made by the District Attorney’s Office on behalf of the city of Riverside.

The injunction, a first in Riverside County, has resulted in a handful of arrests for alleged misdemeanor violations of the order’s conditions.

Earlier this month, Pacheco suggested city police were not actively pursuing
violators and announced that county legal resources would be regularly put to
work “to enforce the injunction.”

“The East Side Riva gang is alive and well and continues to plague the community by targeting innocent African-Americans who call the Eastside home,”
Pacheco said today.

Manzo allegedly shot Franklin, who was black, several times in the chest
as the victim stood near his car, outside his residence in the 1700 block of
Mathews Street, on the afternoon of May 2, according to investigators.

Franklin had no gang ties, but rather had become a mentor to troubled youth in his neighborhood, discouraging them from drifting into the gang lifestyle, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He grew up in the heart of East Side Riva territory, near Patterson
Park, and was just beginning a career as a correctional officer, the District
Attorney’s Office said.

Pacheco’s process for determining whether to seek the death penalty in a case, instituted when he took office in January 2007, includes meetings with
a victim’s family to solicit their opinion, meetings with investigators and a
conference with a panel of seasoned prosecutors.

Pacheco also gives defense counsel an opportunity to weigh in, and, according to the District Attorney’s Office, Manzo’s public defenders argued there were mitigating factors in the case. Pacheco said he felt the factors in aggravation were far greater.

In previous cases, including that of Raymond Lee Oyler, an accused arsonist charged with igniting the Esperanza wildfire that claimed the lives of five federal firefighters in October 2006, Pacheco waited until after a preliminary hearing for the accused was completed before announcing a decision on whether to seek the death penalty.

Manzo, who has pleaded not guilty on all counts, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 8, according to court records.

He is being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.

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