New developments on double murder retrial

July 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
His brother took the blame when they faced a double murder trial together, but now Antonio Salas is on trial again for the same deadly shootings.

The murders three years ago capped a long-running family feud in Southeast Fresno.

Prosecutors say Antonio Salas was the triggerman who actually killed two members of a neighboring family, but in their first trial, Benito Salas admitted he shot, and said he was the only shooter.

Prosecutors have two advantages in the retrial: they can focus on just Antonio Salas this time around, and the defense won't be able to surprise them. But their own investigation also recently turned up some information that could make it more complicated.

As two Fresno families celebrated graduations in June 2009, a feud exploded in the middle of the street. When the ambulances were gone, Jose and Pablo Mendez were dead.

Police arrested Benito and Antonio Salas for the murders.

The first couple shots were fired from a porch and prosecutors say Antonio Salas fired those shots, then handed the gun off to his brother Benito. But the defense says that is not right because Antonio actually lived at a house next door.

A judge will only allow Action News to shoot still photos as Antonio Salas stands trial a second time for the murders. His attorney pointed out Friday that the gunshots came so quickly, it would've been hard to transfer the gun from one brother to the other.

In fact, a Department of Justice experiment showed it would take at least 1.38 seconds.

And at the first trial, Benito Salas said he was the only shooter.

"When Benito testified in the first trial that he was the shooter and his brother didn't have the gun or wasn't involved, the prosecution was caught flat-footed," legal analyst Charles Magill said.

Benito is expected to testify again at Antonio's retrial, but legal analyst Charles Magill says prosecutors will be better prepared to argue Benito is lying.

In fact, they say 14 witnesses identified Antonio as the person who fired the deadly shots, including Anabel Vargas.

"I did see him point. He aimed and he shot that weapon," Vargas said.

Jurors in the first trial voted 8-4 in favor of convicting Antonio Salas. But legal analysts say that split doesn't tell them much about how a new jury will see the case.


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