POMONA — An alleged gang member acting as his own attorney in a murder case will have access to police reports and other legal documents in his case, a judge ruled today.
Prosecutors had previously sought to withhold such documents from Rodney Coronel Perez because they feared witnesses might be harmed if the documents, called “discovery” in legal parlance, were obtained by the accused killer.
Perez, 30, of Asuza, is accused in the execution-style shooting death of Roberta Romero, who was killed May 11, 2009 in Pomona.
Prosecutors believe Romero, 24, was targeted because she testified against a high-ranking member of the Azusa 13 street gang who was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death.
When Perez’s request to act his own attorney was granted Nov. 19, Deputy District Attorney Ian Phan asked that discovery documents be kept from Perez and instead given to a defense private investigator.
But on Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court, Phan seemed to soften his stance, noting that the California Penal Code allows access to such documents for defendants who represent themselves.
Before giving police reports and other documents to Perez, Phan told Judge Tia Fisher that he will redact addresses and other contact information for witnesses in the case and for Romero’s family members.
Asked if he feared witnesses might be harmed as a result of Perez obtaining the documents, which number more than 2,000, Phan said, “There’s always that potential.”
“That’s why the information is redacted,” he added.
A Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office committee is set to meet Wednesday to debate whether prosecutors should seek the death penalty against Perez and his co-defendant, Ramiro Juan Alvarez, Phan said.
Alvarez, 24, of Azusa, is accused of aiding and abetting Perez in Romero’s killing.
According to court testimony from a woman who witnessed Romero’s killing, Perez and Alvarez targeted Romero because she testified against Ralph “Swifty” Flores.
Flores was an enforcer for Azusa 13 who was convicted in 2008 of murdering four people between 1999 and 2004.
According to a transcript of testimony in his preliminary hearing, Flores shot and killed 16-year-old boy in Azusa who he’d never met because the boy was black.
Flores’ other victims included a member of a rival street gang, a woman he wrongly suspected of providing information about his gang to police, as well as a gang associate who refused to transfer ownership of her car, which the gang wanted to sell to raise money for a defense attorney for one of its members.