At murder sentencing, Oakland man gets choice: Be ‘pigheaded’ and take 25 to life, or drop appeal for parole chance in 15 years

OAKLAND — At his sentencing hearing late last year, an Oakland man was presented with a deal rarely offered to those who’ve been convicted of murder: Drop your appeal, prosecutors said, and we’ll shave 10 years off your sentence.

But 26-year-old Alejandro Garcia, convicted of murder in the death of Reynaldo Vazquez, rejected the offer and ignored a judge who double-checked if Garcia was sure, implying that he was being “pigheaded” by not taking the deal. Garcia was then formally sentenced to 25 years to life, according to a transcript of the hearing. He was brought to North Kern State Prison to begin serving his sentence last month.

Garcia was one of six people who were arrested and charged with murdering the 24-year-old Vazquez, in what prosecutors called a revenge plot over a prior nonfatal shooting allegedly committed by Vazquez’s friend. The defendants allegedly kidnapped Vazquez and brought him to a private location in Oakland, where they beat and fatally shot him.

But out of the six defendants, only Garcia and the alleged shooter, James Scott, took their case to trial. The others received plea deals in exchange for cooperation. The same December day that Garcia was sentenced, Scott received a prison term of life without the possibility of parole.

Garcia faced 25 years to life for murder and additional seven for kidnapping Vazquez. But deputy district attorney Stacie Pettigrew informed Garcia’s attorney before the hearing that she would agree to ask for only 15 years to life if Garcia agreed not to appeal his conviction. Garcia informed his attorney he wasn’t interested in the deal, according to the transcript.

Before Judge Mark McCannon formally sentenced Garcia, he gave him one last chance to take the deal, telling him, “I want to make sure you understand what you are doing right now,” according to a transcript of the hearing.

“Now, I want you to think hard about that, okay?” McCannon said. “Oftentimes people, they get stubborn and they get pigheaded and they do things that aren’t in their best interest.”

Garcia replied that he was sure, and McCannon issued the 25-to-life term, the transcript says.

During trial, witnesses testified that Garcia was one of several people who blamed Vazquez’s friend for shooting at one of his friends on a prior occasion. During the kidnapping, Garcia allegedly told another man to grab a rope so they could hog-tie Vazquez, who was subsequently pistol-whipped by another man and shot by Scott. At his sentencing, Scott maintained his innocence and said he was being blamed for the actions of others.

Before Garcia was sentenced, he heard from members of Vazquez’s family.

“I think about (Vazquez) every single day,” his sister said. “I know it’s been five years, but it really doesn’t get easier at all…He was always such a good person, such a good person. He had a very good heart.”

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Author: Nate Gartrell


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