In a recent California appellate case (case number G047199), a gang member lost an appeal of his 50 years to life sentence for first-degree murder. The gang member’s initial conviction was aided in part by 3D printing technology that helped match the gang member’s gun with the bullet retrieved from the victim’s body.
In 2003, 15 year-old gang member Jaime Guadalupe Gonzalez shot and killed rival gang member Juan Carlos Cena on an Anaheim street corner. Gonzalez fled the scene with an accomplice, Ricardo Castaneda, while Cena died at the scene. Over a year later, Gonzalez’s mother found the firearm, a .38 caliber handgun, and turned it over to police. At the time, experts found that a screwdriver or a similar object was used to scratch the surface of the barrel so severely that ballistics tests done on Gonzalez’s weapon were inconclusive. When questioned by police, Gonzalez did not admit to his role in Cena’s death to police.
In 2009, a fellow gang member told law enforcement about Gonzalez and Castaneda’s roles in Cena’s death. In 2011, Castaneda was arrested on an outstanding traffic warrant. Upon questioning by police, Castaneda admitted his role in Cena’s shooting and identified Gonzalez as the shooter. A new ballistics test was conducted using Gonzalez’s firearm, this time with a 3D printer to account for the damaged barrel on the gun. The test found that the bullet retrieved from Cena’s body matched the barrel of Gonzalez’s weapon.
At the time of Gonzalez’s trial and sentencing, he was already serving an 11-year sentence for assaulting a police officer with a firearm. Gonzalez was tried as an adult and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for first-degree murder (with enhancements for committing the murder for a criminal street gang purpose). Gonzalez appealed the sentence, citing cruel and unusual punishment because he was only 15 at the time of the murder. However, the appellate court affirmed the conviction and sentence.
3D Printers As Evidence
3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. Successive layers of thermoplastic material are laid down to create different shapes. These tangible objects can create the exact specifications laid out in digital models. 3D printers have been around since the 1980s, though they have not been used in forensic technology until recently.
3D printers can be used to create replica models of footprints and fingerprints. They can also be used for facial reconstruction or to reconstruct crime scenes like car accidents. Objects can be enlarged or made smaller to scale using photographs and measurements of initial evidence to create highly detailed 3D models.
In the case of Gonzalez’s firearm, a 3D printer created a model of the handgun and determined that the bullet was discharged from the firearm despite the damaged barrel. A ballistics expert found enough markings within the barrel of the gun that matched the markings on the bullet that killed Cena.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one is facing a murder charge, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in defending persons charged with murder in Southern California. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.
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