A last-ditch effort to avoid a life prison sentence failed Tuesday when a judge denied a new trial for a Santa Rosa man convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a 2011 shooting outside the man's home.
Latroy Clinton, 41, asked to be retried on the grounds that jurors were not informed they could decide the killing of 23-year-old Oscar Valencia was accidental.
Instead, they were given three options — first- or second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. Clinton testified Valencia was shot during a struggle over a gun produced by his brother, Jaime Valencia.
Prosecutors challenged Clinton's version of events, saying he shot Oscar Valencia after he arrived home late at night and found him with other young men waiting outside a neighbor's house.
By his own statements, Clinton wasn't holding the gun when it discharged, making him ineligible for the accidental manslaughter instruction, prosecutor Karina Kowler said.
“The jury did not give credit to Mr. Clinton on that point otherwise they would have acquitted him,” she said in court.
Judge Robert LaForge agreed, clearing the way for Clinton's sentencing on Thursday. Clinton, who has a long criminal record, could get more than 50 years to life in prison under the state's three strikes law, said his lawyer, Walter Rubenstein.
He is expected to appeal the verdict.
The slaying happened after Oscar Valencia and three other men, including his brother, met a group of women at a downtown nightclub.
After a night of dancing, they followed them in their car to a house at the intersection of Cumberland Street and Homestead Lane in Santa Rosa. They waited outside while they changed their clothes to continue the party at another location.
Clinton arrived in a white van and got into an argument with one of the men who witnesses said owed him money.
It is unclear what happened next. Clinton testified Oscar Valencia attacked him and that his brother pulled a gun. He said it went off in a struggle, hitting Oscar Valencia in the face.
But other witnesses said Clinton ran into his house and emerged with a chrome revolver. A teenage neighbor said he looked out his window in time to see a man crossing the street with his arm extended, as if holding a gun.
Clinton fled after the shooting. Police chased him down Highway 101, stopping his van in Marin County with spike strips. A .44 Magnum was found along the roadway.
Clinton said he took it from Jaime Valencia at the scene and threw it out his window.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.