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California Supreme Court Denies Petition to Review Murder of Juan Vasquez

The state's highest court said that it would not review the case against Joe Nino, who was convicted of murdering Juan Vasquez, a 20 year old South Gate resident in 2001.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The California Supreme Court refused today to review the case of a man convicted of the murder of a South Gate resident whose body was found in a concrete culvert at the back of a Rolling Hills continuation school more than a decade ago.

The state's highest court denied a defense petition asking it to consider the case against Joe Nino, who was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the Dec. 4, 2001, shooting death of 20-year- old Juan Vasquez, who was found dead the next morning in a culvert at Rancho Del Mar Continuation High School.

In January, a three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Nino's claim that errors were made in his retrial in Torrance Superior Court.

Nino was sentenced in October 2009 to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 25 years to life, while co-defendant Miguel Torres -- who is not appealing his conviction -- was sentenced to 26 years to life behind bars.

The sentences mirrored those handed down when the two were initially convicted and sentenced in 2003.  An appellate court panel unanimously reversed their convictions in July 2007, agreeing with the defense's contention that the prosecution had used its peremptory challenges -- in which an attorney does not have to state a reason for dismissing a juror -- to eliminate women and minorities from the panel.

At their retrial, Nino and Torres were again convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy.

As in the first trial, the murder charge against Nino at his retrial included the special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait and an allegation that he personally used a firearm -- both of which jurors found true.

Torres instigated the murder, but was not at the scene when the victim was killed, according to Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum, who handled the retrial.

Torres was angry with the young man over a thwarted business deal involving car rims, the prosecutor said.

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