Two Southern California men were each sentenced Wednesday to 11 years in state prison for the shooting death of a man in a home invasion robbery in East Oakland in December 2014.
Ruben Anthony Cortez, 42, and Brian Martinez, 36, both of San Bernardino, were charged with murder for the fatal shooting of 39-year-old Michael Owens inside his home in the 1000 block of 92nd Avenue on Dec. 14, 2014, during what a prosecutor said was a marijuana deal that went wrong.
Cortez and Martinez stood trial last fall in a lengthy and contentious proceeding that included many closed discussions between the prosecution and the defense in the judge's chambers.
A mistrial was declared on Oct. 31 when jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquitting them following three days of deliberations.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office considered prosecuting the two men on murder charges a second time, but on Jan. 29 they pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Their plea agreement called for them to get 11-year prison terms and Alameda County Superior Court Judge James Cramer formally sentenced them today.
Alameda County prosecutor Peter McGuiness alleged in his opening statement in the trial that Owens, the shooting victim, and his partner, 49-year-old Kevin Lamar White, had done business with Cortez and Martinez before.
But on Dec. 14, 2014, Cortez and Martinez, along with a third man only identified as "Michael" who has never been arrested, decided to take the victims' money instead of selling them marijuana as planned, McGuiness said.
McGuiness said the man known as Michael told Owens "just be cool or you'll get one to the head" and Owens was shot three times after he cursed at Cortez, Martinez and Michael.
The prosecutor said it isn't clear who fired the shots that killed Owens but he said all three suspects are guilty of felony murder because all three were armed with guns and participated in the robbery, in which $14,000 in cash was taken.
But Cortez's attorney Annie Beles told jurors that White, who was able to escape without being shot and testified against Cortez and Martinez, wasn't credible in his statements to police and his testimony in court.
Martinez's attorney Jeff Chorney alleged that White made up a story about what happened because "he's afraid of being blamed or prosecuted" for Owens' death.
Chorney admitted that Martinez, Cortez and the third suspect were planning to do a marijuana deal with Owens and White, but he alleged that Owens and White had a separate arrangement to buy or sell cocaine from a different group of people that same day and that Owens was killed during that deal.
"At the cocaine meeting, someone shot and killed Michael Owens," Chorney said.
Martinez and Cortez weren't present when Owens was fatally shot at his home, Chorney said.
Martinez has a prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence in Riverside County in 2010, according to prosecutors.