Sept. 26, 2013
Kit Stolz, OVN correspondent
Alex Medina, the 18-year-old defendant on trial for killing fellow Ojai teenager Seth Scarminach four years ago at a party in Meiners Oaks, watched silently this week as emotion-charged testimony came out in Ventura County Superior Court.
Thursday afternoon Alex Luna, a friend of the late Scarminach, was overcome with emotion recounting hearing screams at a late night party before discovering the body of Scarminach outside in the driveway.
“I just remember walking outside and seeing him on the ground,” Luna said. “I didn’t realize what was happening until I saw all the blood.”
Wednesday afternoon, two young men reported to be friends of the victim’s family, made a comment to jury members in a hallway on their way to the courtroom.
“One of these young guys said that Medina should be put to death,” said veteran courthouse observer, Mickey Schlein, of Ventura.
“One of them said ‘Give him the chair!’” reported another witness, Bob Suslin, also from the Ventura area.
When the remarks were reported to Judge James Cloninger, he ordered deputies to detain the pair — Neil Nelson and Brooke Pergson. Cloninger had jury members brought in individually to see if any identified the pair as having made the remarks. Nine jurors said they heard the pair. Most reported being more annoyed than alarmed.
After sending the jury from the courtroom, and discussing the situation with attorneys from both sides, Cloninger warned the two he could jail them for up to five days for contempt of court or he could refer their names to the district attorney and they could face a potential six-month stay in county jail for jury tampering.
Ultimately, he ordered them from the courtroom and the second floor of the courthouse — where jury trials are held.
When the trial resumed, prosecuting attorney Thomas Dunlevy called three witnesses who reportedly saw the slaying, including Tatianna Foster, Rutilio Huerta and Gabriel Arellano. Their testimony put Medina at the scene of the crime, as well as in a confrontation with Scarminach at a party earlier in the night, in which the pair nearly came to blows but were separated by on-lookers.
Defense attorneys argued that Arellano and Huerta, both who have served jail time and have been linked to the Ojai Surenos Locos (OSL) gang, were given leniency by the district attorney’s office in return for their testimony.
On the stand, Arellano admitted he lied to police, telling them he had not been at the party in April 2009 when Scarminach was killed. He testified that he was arrested and taken to county jail after police discovered he had been there. He testified that detectives threatened to charge him with murder and put him in prison for life, but released him after he agreed to wear a body wire and secretly record a conversation with Huerta, a registered member of the OSL according to police authorities.
In that conversation, Huerta, who said he was unaware that the conversastion had been taped until he appeared in court, told Arellano to “post up” – stay out of sight – because members of the Demons, a Ventura motorcycle gang, and possibly the Hells Angels, were looking to retaliate against the Ojai Surenos Locos.
“They’re looking for us, dude,” he told Arellano in the taped conversation. He also recounted seeing members of the Demons flashing a gun in Meiners Oaks.
“After this incident you were afraid of the Demons and the Hells Angels coming after you?” asked defense attorney Scott Wippert. “Because you were considered an Ojai Street Loco gang member?”
“Yes,” said Huerta, who was convicted of assault and battery in 2010.
Krista Petler, who at the time of the murder was 15 years old and in an on-again off-again relationship with Scarminach, testified Wednesday and Thursday. She testified that she told detectives Scarminach believed he might have been targeted by Medina because he was wearing white shoes with red shoelaces, said to be a sign of “white power.” She said she took a red bandanna from Scarminach on the night of his death and tried to calm him and added that the “white power” remark was her interpretation of Scarminach’s concern, not what he actually said to her.
Sept. 26, 2013