The second trial of the man accused of the murders of four people in Palm Springs in 2019 will proceed with rediscovered evidence being excluded, a judge ordered Tuesday. He rejected a motion to declare a mistrial, which likely would have led to a third trial in the case.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos ruled that a bullet casing gathered by a tow truck driver, which police had been unable to find for almost four years, should be excluded from the case and not mentioned to the jury because it could make the defense's case more challenging.
"It's the court's intention to proceed with the evidence being excluded and there will be no mention of it," Villalobos told the attorneys Tuesday.
The defense team representing Jose Larin-Garcia argued Monday that the judge should declare a mistrial after the evidence was introduced to the court last month.
John Dolan, Larin-Garcia's attorney, argued the evidence substantially impacted his ability to continue with the defense he had outlined since the second trial started in October.
"It dramatically changes the state of the evidence from when the trial began," said Dolan on Monday. "We didn’t create this problem. It’s just negligence, and it’s serious negligence."
Villalobos agreed the initial loss of the evidence, and its rediscovery months into the second trial, was a result of negligence, but added that "it isn't nefarious."
A mistrial had been called earlier this year when a jury could not agree on a verdict after testimony spanned the later months of 2021 and into 2022.
Palm Springs police found four fatally shot early in the morning of Feb. 3, 2019. Jacob Montgomery, 19; Juan Duarte Raya, 18; and Yuliana Garcia, 17; were found dead in a crashed car on the 3700 block of East Sunny Dunes Road. Carlos Campos Rivera, 25, was found dead several blocks away in the middle of Canon Drive.
Larin-Garcia was found hiding under a truck nearby and was later arrested as he was attempting to board a bus to Florida from Indio.
The prosecution was about to rest its case last month, when a crime scene technician at the Palm Springs Police Department found a bag containing shattered glass, a bullet casing and a cigarette butt. Court filings show Julie Osburn, the tech, found the bag in the trunk of the car in which three were found dead. The car was being prepared to be transported for the jury to view last month.
Villalobos excused the jury soon after and scheduled the attorneys to discuss what impact the rediscovered evidence could have on the trial.
Christopher Damien covers public safety and the criminal justice system. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @chris_a_damien.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Trial in Palm Springs quadruple homicide proceeds without new evidence