Rare Field Trip for Jurors in Fresno Murder Trial

FRESNO, Calif. The jury is more than a month into the murder trial against Ruben Ortiz. He was only 17 when he turned himself into police in March 2008, but he's being tried as an adult, and he took part in something that hasn't happened in more than a decade.

With three sheriff's cars as escorts, a Classic Charter bus toured the Central Fresno neighborhood where a 15-year-old was shot and killed two years ago. Up and down Rowell Ave. they went, getting jurors on both sides of the bus a good look.

After four weeks of trial, the judge granted the unusual field trip to give jurors a frame of reference for all the information they've heard.

"Look at the terrain, look at the surrounding structures, the cars that might've been going by, to see whether or not shots could've been heard," said ABC-30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Capozzi says field trips are usually helpful for jurors, but they're a logistical nightmare, so judges rarely allow them.

"It's unusual that it's granted," he said. "The last one I can recall is the Ewell case back a number of years ago."

In 1998, jurors found Dana Ewell guilty in the murders of his father, mother, and sister after visiting the Sunnyside area home where they were killed.

In this case, 12 years later, Ruben Ortiz faces murder charges too, accused of killing a rival gang member.

His attorney is arguing that Ortiz only shot in self-defense and he also says the victim was probably killed by friendly fire in a gang shootout. He's hoping the bus ride helped the jury see it from his perspective.

"There were a lot of issues that were raised by different photographs and having the opportunity to take them out to the actual scene helps them understand the various pieces of evidence," said defense attorney David Mugridge.

Ortiz turned himself in to police shortly after the shooting and he's spent the last two years in jail, but Wednesday, he got out, and took a seat on a field trip for the history books.

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