Judge Denies Re-Sentencing Bid For Man Convicted In Officer's Killing

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge Monday rejected a bid for re-sentencing for a man serving back-to-back life prison terms without the possibility of parole in connection with the murders of a Los Angeles Police Department officer and a young man nearly 25 years ago.

Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen found that Jaime "Alex" Mares, now 45, is "not eligible for relief" under a recent change in state law that affects the cases of some people convicted of murder.

Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers told the judge that the defendant was the one who set the crimes in motion on Nov. 29, 1998, by going with fellow gang member Oscar Zatarain into rival gang territory after one of Mares' friends was shot.

The judge said the evidence showed that the defendant "did out go out hunting with the intent to kill" involving the initial shooting that left 18-year-old Gerardo Sernas dead and said he was convinced there was an intent to kill pursuing peace officers, although Mares was not the gunman in either Sernas' shooting or the subsequent killing of LAPD Officer Brian Brown, a 27- year-old single father who left behind a son who was 7 at the time.

Brown and his partner heard the initial gunfire that killed Sernas and saw Zatarain holding an assault rifle as he ran toward a two-door Honda Civic, which made a U-turn in front of the patrol car and eventually fish- tailed in front of the patrol car, according to a 2003 appellate court panel's opinion which upheld Mares' conviction.

Brown -- whose seatbelt was still on and whose gun was still holstered -- was fatally shot in the head by Zatarain, who was shot and killed in a gunfight with other police officers.

Mares, who testified in his own defense during the trial, told jurors that he did not fire at Sernas or Sernas' friend  and said he ran from the ensuing shootout .

"When he started shooting, it caught me by surprise," Mares testified in his 2001 trial when asked about Sernas' shooting. "I was scared."

He said he didn't want to give police the impression that he was running from them, but said Zatarain ordered him to turn off the headlights and to "Drive, don't stop!" when Zatarain got back into the vehicle after Sernas' shooting. He said he was afraid of being shot by either the police or Zatarain.

Mares also contended that there was a third person in the vehicle at the time of the confrontation with Sernas and his friend, whom prosecutors said were not gang members.

Mares ran from the Honda after the initial round of gunfire from Zatarain toward the police officers near what was then called the Fox Hills Mall, pushed his way into an occupied taxi and led police on a chase to Los Angeles International Airport, where he crashed the vehicle, pointed an object that was later determined to be a glove and demanded that the officers shoot him, according to the appellate court panel's ruling. Mares was shot several times in the head, shoulder, back and leg.

He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, along with four counts of attempted murder and one count each of grand theft auto and evading a peace officer.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder of a police officer and multiple murders.

During the penalty phase of Mares' trial, the officer's son, by then 10 years old, said he never wanted his father to be a police officer because he thought the job was "dangerous."

"I didn't want him to do it," the boy said then, adding that he was worried his father "might die" or get badly hurt.

Jurors subsequently recommended that Mares be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than the death penalty.

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