Citing evidence that a 34-year-old defendant found guilty in a fatal shooting “was attacked first” by the victim, an Indio judge today reduced a Cathedral City man’s first-degree murder conviction to voluntary manslaughter.
But Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing denied a request by Carlos Gregory Diaz’s attorney to reduce the conviction even further to involuntary manslaughter, saying Diaz should not have been carrying a gun that day.
“I’m convinced beyond any doubt your client was attacked first,” the judge told defense attorney Denise Shaw. ” … He could have left. He didn’t.”
Downing immediately sentenced Diaz to 23 years in state prison for the Oct. 30, 2006, slaying of Jaime Ceron, who was gunned down in the driveway of a Cathedral City home on Avenue El Pueblo.
Deputy District Attorney Kristi Belcher maintained that Diaz intentionally killed Ceron, 35, and was guilty of murder.
“Jaime Ceron was shot after he challenged (Diaz),” Belcher said, arguing that the defendant showed an intent to kill.
During trial, Belcher said Diaz shot Ceron because the men had gotten into an argument on the telephone the night before.
The prosecutor said Diaz pulled a gun from his waistband when Ceron came to the home and began beating up the defendant in the garage. Diaz fled to the driveway, where he drew his gun, Belcher said.
Ceron verbally challenged Diaz, who fired three shots, striking the victim in the side and the back, she said. Ceron died at a hospital.
Shaw argued Diaz acted in self-defense and opened fire because he believed Ceron was armed. She also and pointed to her client’s statement that he shot Ceron because “it was him or me.”
The defense attorney argued her client knew Ceron was wanted by police for a shooting four months earlier, and that Ceron was capable of killing him.
She also said evidence showed Ceron was shot in the chest and then the side, which contradicted the prosecution’s claims the victim was struck in the back.