A Fresno appellate court has upheld the conviction of an accused hitman who was tried four times in Fresno County Superior Court before he was convicted in August 2011.
Jesse David Alvarez, 48, who is serving a life sentence in a Southern California prison, said in his appeal that the case against him should have been dismissed after the third trial “in the interest of justice.” He also contends his fourth trial was unfair and violated his due process rights.
The 5th District Court of Appeal rejected his appeal this week, saying his arguments “are unpersuasive.”
In the four trials, prosecutor Michael Fry said Alvarez armed himself with a gun that had a silencer and intended to kill a Fresno man, but ended up seriously wounding the man’s daughter inside the family’s northwest Fresno home on Sept. 24, 2004.
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The appellate decision lays out the details:
Alvarez, a resident of Riverside, went to the Fresno home looking for a man identified in court only by his first name, Volodia. But Volodia’s daughter, identified as Anna, answered the front door.
“I’m from the agency,” the man said, holding some envelopes. The daughter didn’t suspect anything might be wrong because she thought the man was delivering mail from the government, and her father was awaiting sentencing on federal charges of possessing a silencer.
The daughter told the man she would give the envelopes to her father, but the man insisted on giving them directly to Volodia.
Once the daughter grabbed the envelopes, the man pulled a handgun from his waistband and started shooting. He shot the daughter in the chest, hand and ear lobe. The gunman then fired toward Volodia’s other daughter but missed. That daughter ran to a room, and with the help of her mother, barricaded the door.
Volodia, who was outside smoking, then entered the home and struggled with the gunman. More shots were fired before the gunman ran.
Police later found Alvarez’s finger and palm prints on one of the envelopes, Fry said during the trials. Volodia’s wounded daughter also picked Alvarez out of a police photo lineup.
In the trials, Alvarez’s attorneys contended it was a case of mistaken identity. They said the wounded daughter described a gunman in his 20s with brown eyes and a face scarred from acne. Alvarez was in his 30s when the shooting happened and has green eyes and no sign of acne on his face, his lawyer said.
The defense lawyers also contended that at the time of the shooting he was with family in Arizona recovering from a motorcycle accident.
A day after the shooting, a security guard discovered a car with a broken window. Inside the car was a gun with a silencer. Though the car and gun didn’t have Alvarez’s fingerprints, the car belonged to one of his neighbors in Riverside, court records say.
Two previous trials ended in mistrials, and a guilty verdict in 2006 was overturned because of jury misconduct.
In his fourth trial, jurors deliberated over four days in August 2011 before finding him guilty of the attempted murders of Anna and her father.
In February 2012, Alvarez was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison plus two life sentences.
Before he was sentenced, Alvarez sought a fifth trial after a female juror who convicted him publicly expressed doubt about his guilt. The juror also told Judge M. Bruce Smith that she visited Alvarez regularly in jail after his conviction and had told him that she loved him. In addition, she admitted she violated court rules by using her cellphone to read and share – while on the jury – a Bee article that described Alvarez as an alleged hit man.
But Smith said there was ample evidence to convict Alvarez. The judge also said the juror had been manipulated by Alvarez “to perpetrate a fraud on this court.”