Ventura County prosecutors urge freedom for convicted killer 2001 SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) —- Prosecutors in neighboring counties may find themselves on opposite sides as a judge decides whether to free a convicted killer. Ventura County authorities believe Efren Cruz, 26, is innocent while prosecutors in Santa Barbara County aren’t so sure. “Do I think we got the right man? I think the evidence persuaded the jury beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Jerry Franklin, Santa Barbara County senior deputy district attorney. Cruz was convicted of second-degree murder and other crimes four years ago. Prosecutors said he shot to death a man and injured another in 1997 during a gang-related confrontation in a downtown Santa Barbara parking lot. Forensic tests revealed that Cruz had gunshot residue on his hands, according to court records. He was sentenced to 41 years to life in state prison and has exhausted all appeals but maintains his innocence. “I know in my heart that I did not shoot nobody,” Cruz said at his sentencing hearing. “If I was the one who did it, may I burn in hell.” Based on a jailhouse informant’s tip, Ventura County prosecutors and Oxnard police last summer obtained a secretly taped confession by Cruz’s cousin, a jailed Oxnard gang member. In it, Gerardo Reyes says he shot the men because he was afraid Cruz was going to be beaten up. “I did it,” Reyes said, according to the transcripts. “I didn’t do it for myself, homie, I did it for him.” In November, Ventura County District Attorney Michael D. Bradbury wrote a letter to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon. In it, he said prosecutors had concluded that Reyes was the killer. Cruz’s attorney received a copy of the letter and filed a petition to free his client. Earlier this month, a judge issued an order asking Santa Barbara County prosecutors to tell him why the petition should not be granted. Franklin plans to file a response by April 2. “I think there will be a contested hearing,” Franklin said. From what he knows of the Cruz case, the jury’s verdict was appropriate, the prosecutor said. “But as we all know, what seems to be the case can be turned on its head in light of new evidence,” he added. :nav Source: Google Cache directory

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