EVERETT, Wash. - Alejandro Meza of Lake Stevens, Washington, was convicted in October of first-degree manslaughter for killing a stranger on an Everett bus.
Judge Richard Okrent agreed with Meza’s defense attorney that an accumulation of "errors" at trial by the deputy prosecutor in the case may have prejudiced the jury when it convicted the defendant.
Okrent said deputy prosecutor Adam Sturdivant "misled the jury" and violated Meza’s constitutional rights with several statements, including comments about Meza’s right to remain silent and a reference to the killing of Gene Peterson, 33, as an "execution."
Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said his leadership team would review court documents to decide what to do next, which could include appealing the decision.
Meza was charged with second-degree murder for Peterson’s death on a Community Transit bus. The defendant was going to work in Mukilteo on March 7 last year.
Meza got into a fight with Peterson, of Everett. According to Meza’s trial testimony, Meza had confronted Peterson about smoking drugs on the bus.
Meza testified this conversation went "not as planned." He also claimed Peterson threatened to put him "to sleep."
Peterson punched him in the face, surveillance video showed.
A fight ensued in the aisle. Meza felt a hand on his waist where he kept his gun. He thought it was Peterson’s hand, he said. Security footage showed it was the hand of Peterson’s friend reaching in.
Meza then fired a shot into Peterson’s stomach. He told police the first shot was an accident. He then shot Peterson again, intentionally, police said Meza told them.
After a weeklong trial, a jury convicted Meza of a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.
"This is a very difficult case with a difficult set of facts and very difficult sets of interpretations," Okrent said Wednesday.
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