Man, 23, acquitted of murder

first_imgLANCASTER – A 23-year-old Palmdale man accused of killing an Orange County construction worker in November 2001 was acquitted of murder Thursday in his second trial. The verdict in Victor Ortega’s case, reached after about two days of deliberation, was a turnaround from his first trial in which a different jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. “It goes to the vagaries of our judicial system. Twelve different jurors can come up with 12 different conclusions,” said Vito Caruso, Ortega’s public defender. Ortega was convicted in his first trial of a drug charge. Ortega and Rivera met the night before Rivera was found dead in the alley and had been drinking together and with others, authorities said. They had met at a Palmdale motel room rented by a woman who lives in Ortega’s neighborhood, officials said. The woman testified at a preliminary hearing in 2002 that she saw Ortega and the victim walking down a dark alley and five minutes later heard a gunshot in the general direction of the alley, officials said. An autopsy indicated Rivera was shot in the head. His wallet and jacket were taken. Rivera, his brother and a friend were staying in the Palmdale area and had been working on the Wal-Mart store being built in east Palmdale, officials said. [email protected] (661) 267-5744160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! His sentencing for that is set for May17. Ortega was accused of killing David Rivera, 25, of Santa Ana, whose body was found Nov.10,2001, in an alley behind the 300 block of East Palmdale Boulevard. Ortega was 17 at the time, but prosecutors charged him as an adult. “I believe the jury reached the correct verdict, and I believe there were problems of proof with the case. I believe jurors were troubled with some of the testimony that they needed to believe,” Caruso said. “In my opinion, two main prosecution witnesses were not the most credible of witnesses.” Deputy District Attorney Fred Mesropi said a key witness could not be found to testify at the second trial. That witness had earlier testified that the defendant had admitted killing the victim, Mesropi said. last_img