Man acquitted of giving false info in murder case
After a not guilty verdict was delivered by a jury that took portions of two days to deliberate, the family of Javier Garcia Acevedo shed relieved tears outside the courtroom.
“We’re positive he was going to be not guilty because we know our family,” said Tony Garcia, Acevedo’s brother-in-law.
The verdict cleared Acevedo, 20, of felony accessory, which carries a maximum of three years in prison. Specifically, Acevedo was accused of intentionally hiding pertinent information on who was involved in the January murder of 23-year-old suspected drug dealer Joel Bravo.
Acevedo has been in El Dorado County Jail since his March arrest but wore plain clothes during the trial. He listened to court proceedings with an interpreter sitting nearby and hardly reacted to the verdict.
On Thursday, typically known as a heavy-traffic day in El Dorado County Superior Court, the jury box was filled with handcuffed inmates in orange jumpsuits awaiting their proceedings. Instead of moving the inmates, a bailiff instructed people to move to the right side of the aisle while the jury of 12 women sat on the left side of the aisle.
Wanting to address the jury, Acevedo simply turned from the defense table and looked behind him.
“I would like to thank the jury and it was not my intention to waste your time over here,” he said through a court-certified Spanish interpreter.
Judge Jerald Lasarow then reminded Acevedo of the United States judicial process.
“That’s how our system works,” Lasarow said.
The trial began late Monday after the jury was selected. Deputy District Attorney Tony Sears said Acevedo, who changed his story of what happened in Bravo’s apartment several times in interviews with authorities, lied to protect the murderer.
When interviewed on March 16, Acevedo said he wasn’t at the apartment on Spruce Avenue when Bravo was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. He then said he was there to buy drugs with another man when Bravo’s roommate shot Bravo after a quarrel.
Another story included Acevedo going to Bravo’s apartment with two men to buy drugs and one of the two men shooting Bravo.
Sears questioned South Lake Tahoe police officer Mike Dente and Detective Brad Williams – the prosecution’s lone witnesses – on blood patterns and where Bravo’s body was found. In one story, Acevedo said Bravo was crawling on his bed, and falling halfway off, after the fatal shot was fired.
Sears submitted photos of Bravo’s body – under a blanket, head near a bloodless bed, blood on the face and pooling under the head – as evidence Bravo was not on the bed when he was shot.
“Basically of course I’m disappointed and disagree with the jury’s verdict but that’s their province and not mine and I fully respect that,” Sears said.
Defense attorney Lori London said her client was only protecting himself and gave different stories under constant questioning from investigators bent on getting a story of their liking.
She also said her client was threatened into stories, such as authorities calling immigration officials and arresting his girlfriend publicly at school.
Jury forewoman Carla Churchman said little about the group’s conclusion.
“I think it was a joint conclusion and that’s all I’d like to say to the paper,” she said.
Another juror, who only gave her first name of Jessica, said the prosecution failed to “connect the dots.”
Tony Garcia, Acevedo’s brother-in-law, stood outside the courtroom saying the family would leave Tahoe. He said he lost his job as a maintenance worker so he could attend the trial.
“But that’s OK,” he said. “This is more important than a job.”