SANTA CRUZ — The man who allegedly participated in a gang-related shooting nearly three years ago that killed a man and a 4-year-old girl appeared briefly in court Tuesday, where he asked a judge to give him more time to find a neuropsychologist.
Michael Escobar, now 34, is accused of shooting Ramon Rendon several times in front of the Valley Inn on the 900 block of Main Street on Oct. 10, 2014. A bullet entered a nearby restaurant and struck Jaelyn Zavala, who was later pronounced dead.
Rendon, 33, reportedly was the intended target.
Escobar has been charged with first-degree murder and gang charges. He is being held in Santa Cruz County Jail without bail since his arrest the same day
Police believe that Marcos Robles, 26, was with Escobar during the shooting. He faces the same charges.
According to Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield, Escobar has retained two psychologists in an effort to prove he was incapable of forming the intent to kill.
This type of argument is known as Mens Rea, a Latin legal term which addresses intent, and allows a judge to differentiate between someone who intentionally committed a crime, and someone who did not mean to do so, according to Findlaw.com.
Although two doctors have interviewed Escobar, one of them recently withdrew from the case citing a conflict of interest.
That angered Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann, who ordered both sides to be ready for a Sept. 17 date. Escobar’s trial was originally scheduled to start this week.
“I have a distinct concern with the fact that Dr. Woods for all intents and purposes wasted 16 months of the court’s time,” Volkmann said of the previous doctor. “I will indeed remember Dr. Woods’s name.”
Still, Volkmann said that Escobar’s attorney Jay Rorty is acting in “good faith” for his client in requesting a second doctor to interview his client.
Outside court, Rorty declined to comment.
Escobar and Robles are believed to have committed the crime with Gilberto Ponciano, 28, Roberto Ramirez, 26, and Juan Cruz, 24. All three were sentenced on Feb. 23 to state prison after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and voluntary manslaughter. They were also convicted of promoting a criminal street gang, jail records show.