A prosecutor said Thursday that a Fresno man "took the law into his own hands" when he shot and killed an unarmed man in June this year.
But attorney Antonio Alvarez, who is defending Victor Rosas, said his client killed Juan Jimenez in self-defense. Rosas also shot Jimenez "in a heat of passion" because Jimenez was sexually abusing Rosas' mother, Alvarez said.
Judge W. Kent Hamlin ruled in Fresno County Superior Court it will be up to a jury to decide whether Rosas committed murder, or the lesser charge of manslaughter, or should be set him free.
If convicted of murder, Rosas faces 50 years to life in prison.
Hamlin made his ruling after Fresno police detective Richard Tacadena said Rosas, 30, confessed to using a rifle to fatally shot Jimenez, 43, outside Rosas' home at the Ashmark Apartments at Ashlan and Marks avenues on June 15.
Jimenez was shot multiple times in the head, a coroner's report said.
During the hearing, Tacadena described in detail Jimenez's alleged abuse of Rosas' mother. He said the woman told him that Jimenez would beat her, tie her up and force her to have sex with him. Other times, he would restrain her and sexually assault her, she said.
Jimenez and Rosas' mother lived in Orange Cove. Because of the abuse, she left Jimenez and moved in with relatives in Fresno, Tacadena said.
Two weeks before Jimenez was shot, Rosas' mother told her son about the assaults, Tacadena testified.
On the day of the shooting, Rosas was working as a landscaper when his pregnant girlfriend called him and told him that Jimenez went to Rosas' relative's home looking for his mother, Tacadena testified.
According to Tacadena, the girlfriend also told Rosas that Jimenez wanted to talk to him.
Rosas went home and waited for Jimenez, prosecutor Stephanie Savrnoch said.
When Jimenez showed up in a red pickup at Rosas' apartment around 8:40 p.m., Rosas rushed out of his home and shot him, Tacadena said.
Jimenez tried to drive away, but crashed. Rosas then shot Jimenez at least two more times, Tacadena said. Rosas was arrested three days later, the detective said.
Savrnoch told the judge that Rosas committed premeditated murder because he was lying in wait for Jimenez.
But Alvarez said Rosas believed his life was in danger. Jimenez was known to carry a gun and had threatened to kill Rosas' mother and her family if she left him, Alvarez argued.
Rosas has convictions for drugs and being a felon in possession of ammunition, but no "crimes of violence," Alvarez said. Jimenez has been to prison for convictions of burglary, possession of stolen goods, false imprisonment and other crimes, court records show.
Police say Rosas is a McKenzie Street Bulldog gang member. But three of his friends who attended Thursday's hearing said Rosas is a hard-working family man who left the gang lifestyle.
They also said he had a right to kill Jimenez.
"I'm from Clovis and if you did that to my mom, you better look out," said Vicki Miller.