Jury selection begins in SF triple murder trial

Kamala Harris won't seek the death penalty in the Edwin Ramos murder case.

February 2, 2012 10:41:03 PM PST
Jury selection started Tuesday in a high profile murder case: three members of a family shot and killed in San Francisco by a reputed gang member. The trial may be a long one; it could last half a year. There are lots of documents, over 20,000 pages of discovery and there are potentially more than 100 witnesses.

A jury pool of some 1,300 people has been called for the long awaited triple murder trial.

Edwin Ramos is accused of killing Tony Bologna and his two sons on an Excelsior District street three and a half years ago.

District Attorney George Gascon says it's a case filled with emotion.

"What we want to make sure that we bring justice to the family," Gascon said.

Ramos' lawyers acknowledge fighting the "sympathy factor" will be difficult.

"Can you get rid of that and just judge this case on the facts without any sympathy?" defense attorney Marla Zamora asked.

The facts as the prosecution sees them are that Ramos was a member of the violent Latin American MS-13 gang. They say he mistook one of the sons for a rival gang member as he drove by Bologna's car. Prosecutors say he opened fire, hitting all three victims. Another son in the car was not injured.

Investigators say Ramos admits he was the driver, but not the shooter. He claims another MS-13 friend in his car shot and killed the Bolognas.

"He didn't know about it, he didn't know it was going to happen; he was just as shocked as anybody," Zamora said.

The murders created public outrage over the city's sanctuary policy when it was revealed that Ramos was an illegal immigrant who had been arrested for two felonies as a juvenile. Instead of notifying federal immigration authorities, probation officials sent Ramos to juvenile hall.

Then Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city employees to begin reporting underage illegal immigrants arrested on felonies to federal officials.

Ramos' attorney says she now has documents which prove her client was here legally.

"He legally entered the country in 2000 on a 10-year visa that was being granted at the time," Zamora said.

Both sides say it will be an explosive trial which may take five months.

Many potential jurors were asking the judge to dismiss them on hardship grounds.

"Being in a trial for five months is just impossible for me; there's no way you can run a store that way, so I had to request recusal," dismissed juror Aaron Biner said.

Ramos is being held without bail in the county jail.

Jury selection is expected to last two weeks, with opening statements after that.