Press Release: Appeal Court Upholds Home Invasion Conviction, 4/29/09

April 29, 2009
Bradford R. Fenocchio

District Attorney

PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY

10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Date: April 29, 2009


Contact:

Art Campos

Public information Officer

916-543-8076

Scott Owens

Acting Assistant District Attorney

916-543-8000


APPELLATE COURT DENIES APPEAL OF CONVICTED DEFENDANTS IN ROSEVILLE HOME INVASION

The Third District Court of Appeal has denied the appeal of two men who were convicted in a 2004 crime in which they broke into a Sun City Roseville home, beat and tied up the two senior occupants and set the house on fire in an attempt to murder them.

The defendants, Octavio Gomez Perez, 23, and Jose Humberto Magana Torres, 25, claimed in the appeal that evidentiary and jury instruction errors occurred during the trial and that the judge also made errors in sentencing them.

The two men were sentenced by Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens to 62 years to life in state prison after a jury convicted them on 20 counts each in a 2007 trial.

Among the various counts were attempted premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, false imprisonment of an elder, assault with a deadly weapon, arson causing great bodily injury and auto theft.

A third defendant in the June 5, 2004, home invasion case, Heiner Orlando Villeda, 31, pleaded guilty to seven charges, including attempted premeditated murder, before the trial began and is now serving a sentence of 24 years to life in prison. He was not among the appellants.

Gomez Perez and Magana Torres claimed that the trial court judge should not have allowed Villeda’s guilty plea to be considered in their own cases during instructions to the jury, that the judge allowed hearsay evidence and that their attorneys were not allowed to cross examine Villeda about his reasons for pleading guilty.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the contentions, saying, “Nothing in Villeda’s guilty plea pointed the finger of guilt at either co-defendant.”

The court also said, “We find beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury would have convicted both defendants of the home invasion robbery even had Villeda’s guilty plea not been introduced.”

Rick Opich, the Placer County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the defendants, was pleased with the appeal court’s decision.

“This decision ensures that these defendants will never victimize any more citizens in the state of California again,” Opich said.

During the home invasion incident, the female victim, then 67, managed to untie herself as the house was burning and ran next door for help.

The male victim, then 68, remained bound in his bedroom and became unconscious after breathing too much smoke. He was pulled out through the window by public safety personnel and a neighbor. He later recovered from the smoke inhalation injuries.