A gang member was found guilty of a five-year-old murder for the second time Thursday, less than a year after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that his first conviction should be thrown out based on an illegally obtained confession.
A Hennepin County jury took about two hours to convict José Miguel (Wizard) Chavarria-Cruz, 21, of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in the death of Carlos (Charlie) Hernandez-Perez on May 1, 2006. Chavarria-Cruz, a Sureños 13 gang member, shot Hernandez-Perez because he mistakenly believed he was a member of the rival Vatos Locos gang.
Chavarria-Cruz will be sentenced in about three weeks, though no date has been set. One count involved committing the crime during a robbery, the other for doing so to benefit a gang. He faces up to 29 years in prison.
Chavarria-Cruz was first convicted of second-degree murder in 2008. His lawyers appealed, contending that his confession should be thrown out because Bloomington police did not provide him a lawyer when he asked for one. A detective countered that he didn't hear him ask for one. The confession was the prosecution's strongest piece of evidence.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in 2009, but the Supreme Court overturned it last June, ruling that Chavarria-Cruz had sufficiently articulated that he wanted an attorney.
He is the fourth person to be convicted in the shooting. Three others pleaded guilty in 2008. They were Noel Escarsega, Tarun Solorzano-O'Brien and Felipe Saldivar-Alvillar.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921