FAIRFIELD — Nearly a year after a jury found a Vacaville teenager guilty of premeditated attempted murder, aggravated mayhem, torture, assault, rape and several sexual assault charges, the boy was in court Friday with a legal team trying to convince a judge that the boy deserves a new jury trial.
The boy, 16-year-old Alexander Cervantes, was prosecuted as an adult. He was 14 at the time of the 2010 attack. He broke into the Vacaville home of a 13-year-old girl, repeatedly raped her and stabbed her 42 times, and stabbed her 1-year-old brother 13 times.
On the day when Cervantes was originally scheduled for sentencing, lawyers with a large international law firm announced they were taking over the case from the Solano County Public Defender’s Office.
The new lawyers claim Cervantes deserves a new trial because the Public Defender’s Office botched the jury trial. The defense case at the trial consisted of two witnesses and took less than an hour to present to jurors.
Friday’s hearing focused largely on the expert opinions of local criminal defense attorney John Coffer, long regarded as a top criminal defense attorney in the area, detailing what he saw as slipshod defense work.
Coffer faulted Cervantes’ trial attorney for not putting Cervantes on the witness stand, for not hiring a private investigator, not visiting the crime scene, not talking to witnesses and not spending enough time with her client.
Coffer said the decision to not try to convince jurors that Cervantes had been under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms when he went to the girls’ home had been “a huge error.”
Coffer linked Cervantes’ atrocity to another horrific crime in Vacaville a few weeks earlier in which a man who authorities believe was under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms shot three of his friends, killing two of them.
After Cervantes was arrested, police learned the victims were the sister and brother of a teen drug dealer who sold the mushrooms to the homicide suspect and who used to use drugs with Cervantes.
Prosecutor Terry Ray has pointed out that Cervantes and the teen drug dealer have both denied that Cervantes either had or used mushrooms. Ray is opposed to a new jury trial.
At day’s end, the effort for a new trial was put on hold until Cervantes’ next court appearance, scheduled Sept. 23.
Cervantes, who faces a possible prison sentence of 227 years to life, turned down a pretrial offer of a 50-year prison sentence. Prosecutors refused a counteroffer of a 35-year sentence made by his defense attorney.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.