A Montebello man was found guilty in the shooting deaths of a father and son at a graduation party in Montebello in 2008.
A jury on Wednesday convicted Joe Dorantes, 38, of the second-degree murder of Juan Garcia, 44, of Perris and Albert Garcia, 12, of Hemet, according to his attorney, Daniel Nardoni, and a court official.
The verdict was odd, Nardoni said. While they found Dorantes guilty of the murders, the jurors didn’t find true the allegation that he personally used a firearm.
“I was disappointed in the outcome,” Nardoni said, adding there was enough for reasonable doubt. “The big issue for the defense is identity.”
Dorantes was never definitely picked out as the shooter by people presented with several photographs, Nardoni said
In addition, he said a witness in an earlier trial identified Dorantes’ nephew as the person who asked for a gang member at the party, pulled out a gun and started shooting.
Nardoni plans to file a motion to dismiss the verdict or a motion for a new trial.
The deputy district Aatorney on the case couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.
Dorantes is scheduled for a March 15 sentencing at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, the court official said.
“This has been a long time coming. We are finally happy the jury got it right this time,” a relative of Albert Garcia said. She asked that her name not be used due to possible retaliation from Dorantes’ family.
This was Dorantes’ second trial for the June 21, 2008 slayings.
At his first trial, the jury convicted Dorantes in 2017 of the attempted murder of two people at the party and a gang member two blocks away. But the jury couldn’t agree on the two murders and the court declared a mistrial.
Two of the attempted murders convictions were later overturned on appeal. Dorantes was only retried for the murders.
Dorantes was one of two shooters, authorities said.
The graduation party was held at a backyard in the 100 block of East Madison Avenue in Montebello. Juan Garcia, his fiancee and his 12-year-old son attended the party.
There was an earlier fight in front of the house between members of a tagging crew and a Montebello gang. One of the gang members hit Angel Sosa on the head with a bottle, according to court records. Sosa is Dorantes’ nephew.
Sosa and his friends left. Someone from their group said: “We will be back.”
A party guest who was informally in charge of security at the party told one of the gang members to leave, court records show. That man and two others left and went to a friend’s home. Two other gang members remained at the party, according to court records.
A man who authorities said was Dorantes later showed up, claimed he was from the gang and asked for Marcus Vera, who allegedly was one of the gang members. He was told that Vera had left the party but two other members were in the backyard, court records show.
Dorantes and another person walked along the chain-link fence looking into the backyard.
One of the victims told police Dorantes and his companion pointed at the two gang members who were in the backyard, court records show.
Dorantes and the other male opened fire, authorities said.
One man suffered a graze wound to his hip, a woman was hit in the arm and another guest was grazed by a bullet, according to court records.
Albert Garcia, who was in the backyard, was shot in the chest. His father, Juan Garcia, was walking towards the fence and was also shot in the chest. Both died in hospital.
Dorantes left after the shootings then later saw Marcus Vera on Cleveland Avenue. He shot at Vera. who fired back.
Angel Sosa was tried in 2010 as an adult in the case. A jury acquitted him of the two murders and also found him not guilty of assaulting with a firearm another person at the party who was wounded.
Dorantes was arrested in 2012 for the shootings. As of Thursday, he was being held without bail at Men’s Central Jail.