EL PASO (KDBC) — The jury in the murder trial of 21-year-old Miguel Tinoco was sequestered Wednesday evening after a little under four hours of deliberations.
Tinoco is accused of driving his car into a crowd outside of house party in El Paso’s Lower Valley, killing 23-year-old Miriam Aguirre.
Four other young men were injured in the July 2012 crash.
Tinoco is charged with one count of murder and four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
During Wednesday’s closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Ray Duke said Tinoco became angry after he was punched in the face while leaving the large backyard birthday party on Rio Monte Street around 1 a.m.
Duke recalled witness testimony that claimed Tinoco stopped to urinate on the lawn, prompting an altercation with partygoers.
The prosecutor said after Tinoco was punched, he asked his friend for the keys to his car, quickly sped off, and then made a U-turn, plowing into a crowd of roughly 20 people.
“Why does he make the U-Turn?” Duke asked jurors. “Because he’s mad, he’s furious, he’s absolutely furious.”
Duke told jurors Tinoco aimed for the crowd in attempt to run over and kill the person who hit him.
Duke then showed a picture of the neighborhood taken the morning of the crash. The photo showed four police vehicles parked in a row, blocking the street.
The prosecutor told jurors the picture illustrates how wide Rio Monte Street actually is.
“The defendant had plenty of room to go straight and not hit anyone,” Duke said.
Duke also showed the jury photos of the surviving victims and their injuries after the crash, including Kevin Rodriguez, whose skull was split open.
He concluded with a picture of Miriam Aguirre, the young mother killed.
“Give them justice,” Duke instructed jurors.
Aguirre’s mother, sitting in the courtroom, began to weep.
Dressed in a grey suit, Tinoco looked straight ahead during most of Wednesday's proceedings.
Before Duke’s remarks, defense attorney Tom Hughes - in his closing argument - painted Tinoco as a “scared kid.”
“Miguel Tinoco is not blameless, far from it” Hughes admitted to jurors. “He’s a stupid scared kid that got drunk and participated in a tragedy, but he wasn’t the only one.”
Hughes laid the brunt of blame on the family who hosted the birthday party, the Martinez family.
The defense attorney claimed the party had spiraled out of control and that the family had been serving alcohol to minors, including Tinoco.
Hughes said Tinoco attended high school with Julio Martinez, the young man at the center of the celebration.
“This thing was a train wreck looking to jump the tracks,” Hughes said of the party.
Hughes said Tinoco became afraid after being punched in the face, and was trying to speed away when the manual transmission on his red Mitsubishi Eclipse caused the car to fishtail into the crowd.
The defense attorney also said the street, at 1 a.m., was poorly lit.
Hughes also called the prosecution’s case “full of guesswork” and claimed a taped confession from Tinoco was nothing more than a statement.
“He didn’t confess to anything, he’s a scared kid being verbally abused by a couple of veteran police detectives,” Hughes said.
The attorney reminded jurors that one of the victims, Javier Montes, was reprimanded on the stand for lying under oath when he claimed he had not been drinking at the party.
Appearing to aim for a hung jury, Hughes then told the jury, “If you’re the only one who believes something (while deliberating), stick with it.”
The jury, made up of nine women and three men, has the option to find Tinoco guilty of a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide, in place of murder.
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