By Alisa Boswell
A Curry County jury found Ricardo “Rico” Sena, 27, guilty of voluntary manslaughter Tuesday in the 2013 stabbing death of 17-year-old Devin Saiz.
After deliberating for more than four hours, the jury picked the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter over second-degree murder.
Sena stabbed Saiz in the chest during a fight outside a birthday party on Reid Street.
Sena was found not guilty on four other charges in the seven-day trial.
He faces four to 10 years in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover declined to comment on his thoughts of why the jury may have picked the lesser charge, saying he does not speculate about a jury’s verdict.
Family members of the defendant and the victim also declined to comment on the jury’s decision.
Stover and Defense Attorney Gary Mitchell gave closing arguments Tuesday morning with Stover telling jury members they had two contrasting versions of events to consider.
“The defendant asked a question of the state while he was being questioned,” Stover told jury members. “ He asked, ‘what reason would I have to lie?’ I can think of three, the broken face of Marisa Martinez, the stab wound of Havier Bara and the death of Devin Saiz.”
According to witness testimonies, Sena threw a full can of beer at the face of Marisa Martinez, 17, who was trying to pick a fight with his 18-year-old sister, Staci Sena.
Bara was a friend of Saiz, who also fought Sena the night of the incident.
Stover pointed out that the confrontation was between only Marisa Martinez and Staci Sena before Rico Sena threw the beer can.
He said if Martinez had intended to “jump” Staci Sena, she would have had the opportunity to do so, because she approached her from behind. Instead, Martinez called her out to the street to fight.
Stover also pointed out that Sena claimed 30 people armed with weapons attacked him all at once yet he came out of the situation with only two small scratches.
Mitchell countered Stover’s remarks by pointing out that most of the young people at the party were drunk and a few of the young men there had gone to another residence and committed vandalism earlier that night.
Testimony revealed that Gerald “G” Martinez, who lived at the Reid Street residence, had a confrontation with a rival, Sebastian Flores, earlier that night in a convenience store parking lot.
Martinez and his friends left the residence to go find Flores’ house and while gone, one of Martinez’ friends vandalized the windows of what he thought to be Flores’ home.
Mitchell pointed out to the jury that weapons were found on scene and a large amount of blood, which could have belonged to anyone there that night.
“What does he (Sena) find when he drives up?” Mitchell countered. “A bunch of young people, drunk, immature, already having committed violence and concerned that somebody might come to the house for vengeance.”
He also pointed out that two pairs of brass knuckles were found on scene and brass knuckles are considered a deadly weapon.
“The state wishes to ignore the whole situation with Marisa,” Mitchell said. “She may be only 17 but she set all of this off and it happened in a matter of seconds. What if you went to a party and the first thing someone wanted to do was beat your sister up? And there’s multiple people approaching you.”
In Stover’s rebuttal, he asked jury members to not be swayed by the “red herrings” that the defense was presenting to them, such as the confrontation at store, the trip to Flores’ supposed residence and the knives on scene, which appeared unused, according to witness and police testimonies.
“It’s not just how Rico would react, how Rico would do things. It’s how a reasonable person would react to it. Two weeks prior, a reasonable person had reacted differently.”
Witness Samuel Martinez testified Staci Sena and Marisa Martinez had a confrontation two weeks prior to the incident when Staci had arrived at another party at the same residence.
Both women were told to leave.
“More importantly, we know whose blood it’s not (on scene),” Stover finished. “It’s not Rico’s or Staci’s because neither of them got injured that night.”