Jurors begin deliberations in murder trial for 2004 Montclair drive-by

Jurors began deliberations Friday in the murder trial of a 23-year-old Pomona man accused of committing a 2004 drive-by shooting.

Jose Laguna is accused of shooting and killing David Valez, 20, and injuring two others during the June 19, 2004 incident in the 9500 block of Helena Avenue in Montclair.

In his closing argument Friday morning in West Valley Superior Court, Laguna’s attorney, James Brown, repeatedly told the jury that his client had been misidentified by authorities as the shooter.

Brown said none of the prosecution’s eyewitnesses have identified Laguna as the shooter. The incident happened in the early morning while it was still dark. Brown called identification the “critical issue” in the case.

Prosecutors also failed to say what they believe motivated Laguna to commit the shooting, Brown said.

“There is no connection,” Brown said. “There is nothing.”

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In his rebuttal following Brown’s statement, Deputy District Attorney Mike Dowd outlined what he viewed as the key pieces of evidence presented during seven days of trial testimony.

The gun later shown by ballistics tests to be the murder weapon was found in Laguna’s car — within “spitting distance” of the defendant, Dowd said — when Laguna was arrested two days after the shooting following a high-speed chase.

Laguna’s DNA was found on the gun, and gunshot residue was found inside the front-passenger area of his black Jeep Cherokee — the same car survivors of the shooting told police was used by the shooter.

Dowd repeated a line he used Thursday to demonstrate the strength of the evidence against Laguna.

“He is either guilty or the most unlucky person to ever walk this planet,” Dowd said.

Laguna faces one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. If he is convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to up to 110 years to life in prison.

Laguna did not testify during the trial.

During his statement to the jury, Brown outlined several areas of the case he said could create reasonable doubt.

Brown said the gunshot residue found by authorities in the Jeep could have been left by a previous owner. Laguna’s mother said she bought the Jeep only two months prior to the shooting from a police impound lot, Brown said.

Laguna’s mother testified that Laguna remained at home until a few hours before the shooting, and didn’t leave home until nighttime, Brown said. Yet one man who lived on Helena Avenue recalled seeing the black Jeep during the daytime, Brown said, apparently implying that someone else was driving the car.

Dowd said during his rebuttal that some of the trial testimony may have differed from witnesses’ initial statements to police because nearly five years have passed since the shooting.

Laguna’s case has taken nearly five years to come to trial because he has switched attorneys multiple times.

Jurors began deliberating at about 10:30 a.m. Friday, and were scheduled to continue deliberating until about 4 p.m. Deliberations are set to resume on Monday.

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