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Jury selection in fatal prison stabbing continues

June 11, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

Jury selection continued Monday in the second trial of a 24-year-old Calipatria State Prison inmate accused of stabbing to death another inmate on April 13, 1998.

In the first trial, Louis Gomez, who stabbed fellow inmate Abe Mendibles, 41, 14 times, was found not guilty of first-degree murder.

The jury was undecided on a lesser charge of second-degree murder, so Superior Court Judge James Harmon declared a mistrial in relation to the second-degree murder charge.

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In the second trial, Imperial County Deputy District Attorney Karla Davis will seek to convict Gomez of second-degree murder.

In the first trial, Gomez faced the death penalty if he was found guilty of first-degree murder. He still could be facing the death penalty for the second-degree murder if found guilty on a count separated from the first phase of the trial — assault by a life prisoner.

Harmon, who will preside over the trial again, told potential potential jurors jury selection will last about two months. He added it will take the rest of the summer to finish the trial.

Jury selection was to continue today.

In the first trial, Davis claimed Gomez premeditated the murder. She claimed Gomez stabbed Mendibles inside a prison classroom. She said he waited until the light was dimmed so inmates could watch a movie.

Gomez, 24. was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery from a 1996 conviction in Los Angeles County. Mendibles was serving a 25 years to life sentence under the three strikes law.

Gomez's attorney, John Breeze of El Centro, claimed Mendibles had threatened Gomez. He claimed Gomez stabbed Mendibles in fear for his life.

Jury selection was set to continue today.

>>Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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