SANTA ANA, Calif. – A gang member was resentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) in state prison for committing murder and attempted murder as a juvenile. Ignacio Ruiz Jr., 25, was found guilty by a jury on Aug. 3, 2010, of one felony count of special circumstances murder committed for criminal street gang purpose, one felony count of attempted murder, and one felony count of street terrorism, with sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and the discharge of a firearm causing death. On Aug. 30, 2010, Ruiz was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus consecutive terms of 25 years to life in state prison and life with the possibility of parole.
Ruiz filed a petition through the Central Justice Center to have his sentence vacated because since his sentencing in 2010, new factors for the court to consider have been mandated in cases addressing whether LWOP is an appropriate sentence for juveniles without violating the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The factors are age and immaturity, family and home environment, circumstances surrounding the homicide, any incompetency associated with youth, and the possibility of rehabilitation. The court uses individualized discretion to determine whether the defendant is a “rare juvenile whose crime reflects irreparable corruption” before imposing LWOP.
On June 23, 2013, Ruiz’s petition for resentencing was granted and he was returned to Orange County for a resentencing hearing. The court made an extensive record analyzing the above requisite factors. Testimony, arguments, and an impact statement by victim Abraham Sanchez’s sister, Ana Sanchez, were made prior to the defendant’s resentencing. On Dec. 20, 2016, the defendant was resentenced to LWOP.
Under the supervision of Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson, Certified Law Clerks Joe Moon and Mike Paone prosecuted this case.
Circumstances of the Case
At the time of the crime, Ruiz was a 16-year-old juvenile. On Jan. 19, 2008, Ruiz, along with seven other gang members, planned to confront a rival gang in Huntington Beach for graffiti cross-outs and bottle throwing. Ruiz informed other members that he was “strapped with six rounds” before they drove in a caravan of two vehicles to the rival gang’s area.
Ruiz and his fellow gang members approached two unarmed victims who were riding on a bike. The defendants identified rival gang member Abraham Sanchez, who was then shot and killed by Ruiz. The other victim was badly beaten and stabbed 10 times by their assailants. The defendants fled the scene, and were located and arrested a short time later by the Huntington Beach Police Department.
Orange County District Attorney / Case # 08WF0147 / December 29, 2016