By Darrell Todd Maurina, CNJ STAFF WRITER
Garcia hopes to resume a normal life, feels sorry for Moises Ortiz’s loved ones.
Fernando Garcia just wants to move forward.
The 20-year-old Clovis resident spent nearly a year in jail, charged with killing Moises Ortiz, before a jury found him innocent of the charge.
Garcia had been released in January on a $65,000 bond and was acquitted Thursday afternoon of second-degree murder and tampering with evidence. Garcia still faces sentencing on a dogfighting conviction, but his attorney, James W. Klipstine Jr., asked the court to sentence him to time served.
Garcia said he spent Thursday evening celebrating the jury’s verdict with his family, and plans to attend Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church this weekend.
“We’re glad for it to be over with so we can get on with our lives,” Garcia said. “I do want to say I feel sorry for the Ortiz family.”
Some Ortiz family members still believe Garcia committed the crime, and said moving forward will be difficult for them.
“I still believe he was the one who shot him,” said Ortiz’s mother, Nora Ortiz of Texico. “The Lord will not forget what happened; the Lord knows who did it.”
Ortiz’s brother-in-law Bob Pullings of Clovis agreed.
“Faith has gotten us through this last year,” Pullings said. “Every day for the rest of Fernando’s life, he will know what he did.”
The family of the shooting victim said they trust in God, but at a post-verdict meeting in Deputy District Attorney Bryan McKay’s office, they said they are suffering.
“I pray to the Lord night and day and say we don’t know how we are going to go on,” said Ortiz’s sister, Cynthia Martinez.
Ortiz’s sister Clara Cardozo of Arlington, Texas, said what the family will miss most about Ortiz was his love for relatives.
“He was a great father to his son,” Cardozo said. “Every time I would talk to him, he wouldn’t even use his son’s name, he’d just say, ‘mi hijo, mi hijo.’ He loved my mother dearly and took care of her.”
During all four days of Garcia’s murder trial, family members from both families spent much of their time watching court proceedings.
Garcia’s father Richard practiced his faith during the time his son was in jail.
“We trust God, have faith in God and a good lawyer,” Richard Garcia said.
Ortiz’s sister, Betty Pullings of Clovis, said the Ortiz family didn’t want vengeance.
“All we wanted was justice,” she said. “We know what it means to lose a loved one. He was a human being, we loved him.”
McKay said prosecutors in Clovis have had increasingly serious problems getting convictions in jury trials.
“We are very disappointed,” McKay said. “When we ask 12 citizens of the community to make the hard decisions, they don’t want to do it. (The defense) put (Garcia) in a suit, grew his hair out, made him look as young as possible, and played to every sympathetic response of the jury.”
McKay said the district attorney’s office faces difficult decisions in deciding whether to take complex cases to trial or agree to a plea bargain for lower penalties.
“What bothers me is I know our office takes a beating on offering pleas, but we are almost forced to do it,” McKay said. “The problem is if the case is not just a very clear case, the defense says the police didn’t do their job, and then things like this happen.”
“The public doesn’t realize that cases are not nice, neat packages,” he added. “It’s not like TV where there are no sharp edges. It’s becoming more and more difficult to get the jurors to realize the sharp edges are things they can ignore.”