(AP) — Jury selection is under way this week in Spokane for the third aggravated murder trial of a man accused of shooting five men in 1987 at a Pasco auto body shop.
The trial of Vicente Ruiz was moved from Pasco to Spokane because of news coverage of his first two trials.
The first trial in 2008 was called off when more DNA testing was requested on evidence. The judge halted the second trial in June because the defense had not received some police reports.
The Tri-City Herald reports a sixth shooting victim who survived identified Ruiz as one of two gunmen, but his lawyer says it’s a case of mistaken identity.
One man already convicted in the case is serving a life
sentence. Franklin County Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell is presiding over the trial, which is being held in room 400. A jury of Spokane County residents will be selected.
Read a story from the Tri-City Herald by clicking the link below.
By Kristin M. Kraemer
Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.
Nov. 09—Spokane The third trial for Vicente Ruiz started this morning in a Spokane County courtroom with 114 prospective jurors for the 23-year-old case.
A few eyebrows were raised after jurors were told the Franklin County case involves the deaths of five men and attempted killing of a sixth.
But Judge Cameron Mitchell said it will be up to the jury to determine the facts of the case and if Ruiz played a role in the slayings.
The jury selection process is expected to go into next week.
Ruiz, 46, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.
The trial was moved to Spokane County because of extensive media coverage during the first two trials.
Both ended in mistrials, the first in September 2008 in the middle of jury selection and the second in June after about one week of testimony.
Prosecutors allege Ruiz is one of two shooters who opened fire inside Medina’s Body Shop in Pasco on Oct. 13, 1987
Killed were: Misael Barajas, 22; Juan Antonio Lopez Garcia, 20; Eliceo Guzman Lamas, 20; and Rafael Parra Magallon, 22, all of Pasco, and Francisco Venegas Cortez, 21, of Kennewick.
Aldo Montes, 20, who also uses the name Jesse Rocio, survived a gunshot wound to the stomach.
Ruiz’s cousin, Pedro Mendez-Reyna, is serving a life sentence for his role. Both he and the lone surviving victim have pointed the finger at Ruiz as an accomplice in the shootings.
However, the defense team claims it is a case of mistaken identity and has said that Ruiz looks so similar to his brother that they could be twins.
For more on this story, read Wednesday’s Herald and tricityherald.com.