Three men and a woman accused of committing last year's slaying of 7-Eleven employee and Milpitas resident Mohammad "Moe" Reza Sadeghzadeh appeared in a San Jose courtroom Friday.
Warner Travis, 19, of Las Vegas and Menlo Park residents Jerry Coneal, 19, Delmon Armstead, 19, and Bianca Barrow, 20, have all been charged with murder and robbery of the night clerk, in a crime that yielded about $200.
Two suspects Coneal and Armstead were 17 years old at the time of the killing, but all are being charged as adults. The four defendants are also being charged as members of a criminal street gang who allegedly killed Sadeghzadeh with a firearm for the benefit and furtherance of the gang.
Court records detailing aspects of this homicide case as well as the affiliated gang have been sealed as police continue their investigation.
On Friday, wearing red and gray county jail uniforms, Travis and Barrow sat separated from one another inside the courtroom's jury box with their defense attorneys. Barrow, who conversed with her legal counsel like her co-defendants, broke down at times in sobs and tears during the proceedings.
Nearby, Travis appeared subdued and unemotional.
Conversely, seated against an opposite wall in court, Coneal and Armstead both appeared to be smiling even laughing at times as they spoke quietly to one another next to their respective attorneys.
That day, Coneal's attorney, Alternate Defender Chris Givens, requested Superior Court Judge Philip H. Pennypacker unseal, or make public, the statement of facts of this case. The statement of facts a legal document in this instance compiled by Milpitas police in their investigation of Sadeghzadeh's murder and robbery had been sealed by another judge, meaning it could not be viewed by anyone other than police and the prosecution.
"This statement of facts was done a long time ago," Givens said, adding the defense should be able to view the document to determine the validity of the prosecution's claims against Coneal. "My client has every right in the world to know why he was arrested and why he is in custody today. ÉWe believe a showing be made to the court as to why it should remain sealed."
In response, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Amir Alem objected to the release of the document, saying it was still being used as part of an ongoing investigation.
Eventually, Judge Pennypacker set 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14 at San Jose Hall of Justice as a date for the judge who originally sealed this statement of facts Judge Griffin Bonini to rule on either unsealing it to make it public or keep it confidential. Pennybacker also set a separate plea hearing for 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 in this case.
After the hearing, Alternate Defender Givens told this newspaper the statement of facts might have been kept confidential if police believed there were other suspects involved in this crime. Moreover, Givens said sometimes the prosecution controls the statement of facts during criminal cases in order to portray defendants as guilty "in the court of public opinion," he said.
Alem, a gang unit prosecutor, told the Post that hypothetically any time a statement of facts is sealed it's done for a good reason.
"Releasing that information could harm or hamper or hinder the investigation," Alem said. "Sometimes it's done because there are perhaps witnesses named in that statement of facts that may have harm or danger come to them É it's not uncommon to do that in a homicide case."
Alem who claimed "these types of cases are fluid and are changing every day" would not confirm whether the statement of facts may have been sealed due to there being other suspects involved in the murder.
"I can't tell you why it was sealed," he said.
If it is unsealed, Alem said he could comment on this case further.
Sadeghzadeh, 67, was fatally shot Sept. 8, 2012 during the early morning robbery at the 7-Eleven store at 1496 N. Milpitas Blvd. about a block away from police headquarters. Sadeghzadeh's gold-colored chain and pendant with the victim's name written in the Farsi language was also apparently taken by the suspects during the robbery.
Three days after the slaying, Milpitas Police Department released images from surveillance footage of the robbery, which revealed armed men wearing hooded sweatshirts entering the store and confronting Sadeghzadeh.
Following his death, a candlelight vigil drew up to 150 people to the store where many called for an end to violence in the community.
In October, Milpitas police offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of three suspects involved in the murder. Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. had also offered a $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects involved in the fatal shooting.
Travis was arrested at the Menlo Park Police Department on Dec. 6, while Armstead was arrested at a hotel in Santa Clara the same day. Barrow was arrested at the Menlo Park Police Department on Dec. 9. Coneal had been in custody in San Mateo County on unrelated, undisclosed charges.