LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A member of the Mexican Mafia who was sentenced to death for the 1979 killing of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy will remain in prison after a judge on Tuesday rejected claims that information was withheld from the defense during the original trial.
Jesse Gonzalez fatally shot Deputy Jack Williams as deputies executed a search warrant for drugs at a home in La Puente. He was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of killing a peace officer, and was sentenced to death in 1981.
Gonzalez has never denied killing Williams, but claims he believed the plainclothes officers were members of a rival gang coming to kill him. The death penalty hinged on the jury finding that Gonzalez intended to kill a police officer.
Prosecutors used testimony from jailhouse informant William Acker, who claimed that Gonzalez told him he knew the people at his door were police, and that he wanted to "bag a cop."
On Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli weighed whether prosecutors back in 1980 failed to turn over material evidence related to the jailhouse informant's credibility that may have led to a different verdict. But the judge ruled there was no such violation and the enough evidence about the informant's credibility had been presented to the jury.
"I believe that justice prevailed. He made the decision. This man murdered one of our deputies," Sheriff Robert Luna said outside the courtroom following the decision.
Retired L.A. County Deputy DA Kathy Cady and former DA Steve Cooley represented the victims in the case - Williams' daughters and Bobby Esquivel, a retired sheriff's detective who was with Williams when he was shot.
Cady and Cooley both took aim at current DA George Gascón.
"The conversations we've had are that they were hoping the family would agree to a 15 to life sentence, which would be a second-degree murder, which would've made him eligible for parole, and the family would've had to go through very painful parole hearings which DA's office no longer attends," Cady said.
"Today's ruling by the judge shows the importance of checks and balances in our system because the judge issued a ruling after the L.A. County DA's office had become joined at the hip with the defense, in order to get a police murderer out," Cooley said.
Joseph Iniguez, Gascón's chief of staff, says their office never wanted Gonzalez to be set free.
"There was never a conversation about getting this defendant up before a parole board, there was never any conversations about getting him out of custody," Iniguez said.
Williams' two daughters told Eyewitness News they are pleased with the outcome.
The ruling in state court is a definite victory for the victims, but Gonzalez will be making these same arguments in federal court where he is still trying to overturn the verdict and be released from prison.