Kelli Lunsford, mother of murder victim Mark Lunsford, 23, asked Jackson County Circuit Judge Benjamin Bloom to give Luis Alberto Salas-Juarez the maximum penalty for his crimes Friday at his sentencing. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

A third trial?

Luis Alberto Salas-Juarez on Friday was once again sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison after being convicted for the 2006 stabbing death of a Butte Falls man and for attempting to kill another man during a racially fueled, drunken brawl in downtown Medford.

Jackson County juries twice have unanimously found Salas-Juarez guilty of murdering Mark Lunsford, 23, and of the attempted murder of Lawrence Matthew Crowley, also 23 at the time.

Prosecutor David Hoppe, along with Kelli Lunsford, Mark's mother, asked Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Bloom to give Salas-Juarez the maximum penalty for the crimes, and to deny all motions for appeal.

"Why should we have to relive this over and over?" Lunsford asked.

Lunsford said she will never again be able to hug her son. Salas-Juarez has never expressed remorse and refuses to be accountable for his actions, she said.

Salas-Juarez denied his guilt at Friday's sentencing and vowed to continue fighting the convictions that he characterized as an "injustice."

"Mr. Lunsford is also thirsting for justice, so that he may rest in peace," Salas-Juarez said.

His defense team presented the court with motions for a third trial, based on alleged state misconduct during the trial, and alleged jury misconduct during deliberations.

Defense attorney Chris Missiaen said Friday that the state had engaged in a pattern of misstatements of fact and law during the trial that had a cumulative effect of shifting the burden of proof to the defense, adding presumption of innocence is guaranteed by the Oregon and U.S. constitutions.

"Specifically, the state's conduct may have caused the jurors to ignore their instructions and engage in speculation, conjecture and guesswork," Missiaen's motion states.

Missiaen's co-counsel, Joe Maier, said he does not doubt the jurors took their job seriously. But concerns remain about the state's actions and their impact on jury deliberations, he said.

"From a legal perspective, it looked like there was a burden (of proof of innocence) put on the defense," he said.

Jurors were told a defendant is innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They were also told they could decide which witnesses were credible and base their verdicts on direct and/or circumstantial evidence, among other instructions.

It would take a unanimous vote of all 12 to find Salas-Juarez guilty of murder and 10 or more to find him guilty of attempted murder. Ten jurors would have to vote not guilty to acquit him of the crimes. Anything else would have resulted in a hung jury.

It took the jury of nine men and three women two days to reach unanimous verdicts against Salas-Juarez. Two jurors who wished to remain anonymous, T.C. and F.R., described to the Mail Tribune 16 hours of heated deliberations of testimony and evidence evaluation and even how some relied upon an unsubstantiated theory of Salas-Juarez' actions the night of the murder.

T.C., 47, said after hearing testimony from the state's final three witnesses, which included Crowley, he was sure of Salas-Juarez' guilt. He said he never wavered during deliberations. Other jurors were arguing there was reasonable doubt, he said.

F.R., 36, said by the second day, the vote was seven guilty, five for acquittal. Those who were voting for acquittal were challenged by those who believed he did the crimes, F.R. said.

"They were talking to us saying, 'Why do you think he's not guilty? How can you not see?'" F.R. said. "We were trying to prove him innocent instead of guilty."

A juror came up with the theory that a $20 bill found far from the stabbing scene must have come from Salas-Juarez's pocket when he pulled his knife. That theory, while never presented in court by the state, swung a few of the jurors to the guilty side, F.R. said. The murder weapon has never been found.

Shouting could be heard coming from the jury room multiple times during the two days of deliberations.

As multiple conversations circled between jurors, T.C. said he became frustrated at the lack of decorum and shouted for order. He said he later apologized for shouting.

F.R. said T.C.'s outbursts were making people uncomfortable.

"It was very emotional. It was very difficult," he said, but added he and all the other jurors signed statements at the close of deliberations that they were not coerced, bullied or intimidated into rendering their guilty verdicts.

Hoppe said Friday the jurors did not see what he was not allowed to present at either trial — police reports that allege Salas-Juarez was prone to react violently to behavior he perceived to be racist.

In a Jan. 12, 2007, interview with Medford police Detective Tony Young, Melissa Escalante, Salas-Juarez's longtime girlfriend and the mother of his child, said Salas-Juarez "would get upset if anyone were to say something about his race" — particularly if he were intoxicated.

Hoppe said the jurors who aligned with the $20 bill theory simply created "a rationalization of the state's theory that (Salas-Juarez) had a knife."

"People understand people want to save face. The point is they believed the state's case," Hoppe said. "And these people will live with this for the rest of their lives."

Hoppe said he not believe there was a legal basis for the defense's mistrial motion, which Bloom has under consideration.

"We have to respect the finality of the jurors' decision," Hoppe said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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