Teen Acquitted Of Second-Degree Murder In Alleged Carjacking Gone Wrong
A man who was charged with murder after he crashed a car he stole into a building while the car's owner was holding onto the driver's side door has been acquitted of second-degree murder, but the jury is deadlocked on a count of involuntary manslaughter. Jorge Ruiz, who is now 18 but was 17 at the time of the incident, was acquitted of second degree murder after the jury deliberated for two and a half days, according to City News Service. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall declared a mistrial after the jurors reported they were deadlocked on the involuntary manslaughter count, and he also reduced Ruiz's bail to $10,000. It had previously been set at $1 million.
The series of unfortunate events that ultimately led to 19-year-old Oscar Perez's death happened on Nov. 23, 2014 when Perez got into a car crash with a 16-year-old driver in Boyle Heights. Prosecutors said that the 16-year-old hit Perez's Nissan Altima and did not stop. Perez and his brother, Gerado Perez, chased after the teenage driver, who lost control of his car and crashed into a pole. Perez then got out of his car in an attempt to get the teen's information, but then noticed Ruiz, who had been riding with the teenager, jump into his still-running Altima. Perez grabbed the car door, but Ruiz tried to speed away. This continued for about a half-mile until Ruiz crashed the car into the side of a building at 3544 E. Olympic Blvd. and the car burst into flames. Ruiz broke both of his legs, and Perez died at the scene.
Ruiz's attorneys have argued that the Altima rammed into the teen's car from behind, and that Ruiz wasn't trying to carjack anyone but rather, escape a fearful situation.
"He was just trying to get away, " attorney Gerald Williams said. "He was afraid. He didn't know what these people were going to do." He also said there was some kind of fight between Perez and Ruiz inside the car and that the car accelerated. Gerardo Perez said that when he saw his brother run for his car it was already moving. He said he screamed for his brother to let go.
The next hearing will occur on Tuesday, where the prosecution should announce whether or not they wish to pursue a third trial, and Ruiz's lawyer intends to ask that his client's case be dismissed. This was Ruiz's second trial, after jurors previously acquitted him of first-degree murder, but deadlocked when it came to second degree murder and carjacking, with more jurors—nine of the 12—favoring acquittal.