18-year-old pleads not guilty to shooting man to death during Southeast Fresno robbery

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Angel Morelos did exactly what was expected Monday, pleading not guilty to charges he murdered Christopher Leon last month as Leon and his family broke up a robbery. (KFSN)

Prop 57 has already complicated the prosecution of teenagers charged in connection with the robbery at a southeast Fresno store and the shooting death of the owners' son.

Angel Morelos did exactly what was expected Monday, pleading not guilty to charges he murdered Christopher Leon last month as Leon and his family broke up a robbery.

Hearing the plea, even though it came as no surprise, still stung for Leon's family.

"Terrible," Leon's sister Margie Martin said. "I mean, what can I say?"

We're not allowed to show Morelos' face in court, but Leon's sister watched it closely, and she didn't like what she saw.

"You see him smiling," she said. "He just doesn't know how much pain he did to us."

Morelos is 18 years old, so the accused triggerman in Leon's death faces charges in criminal court, even though his new attorney says he doesn't intend to disrespect the victim's family.

"He certainly isn't a hardened criminal," defense attorney Mike Mitchell argued. "He comes off as a very nice, sincere young man."

Mitchell just got the case but says he's checking to make sure police got the right suspect. He'll be looking at surveillance video and he wants to see if Morelos could've acted in self-defense.

The four other people arrested are all younger, so their cases started in juvenile court. Prop 57 made it harder for prosecutors to get teenagers charged as adults. But a judge is in the process of weighing several factors.

"You look at the type of crime that's here and the sophistication," analyst Tony Capozzi said. "You look at their prior history with the system."

Capozzi says there's a good chance the suspects will end up facing adult charges, especially if they have any sort of criminal history. One of them is only 12 years old, so he'll only face juvenile charges.

But the rest could be charged as adults under the felony murder law since they're accused of taking part in a robbery at the family's stereo and jewelry store which led directly to the deadly shooting.

A decision could come in the next three weeks.

Related Topics:
court casehomicide investigationfresnoFresno
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