Ruiz murder trial: From opening statements to “not guilty” decision
The Rebecca Ruiz murder trial has reached a verdict of not guilty for second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Ruiz was guilty, however, with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Here is the OBSERVER’s timeline of covering the Ruiz trial from the night the shooting occurred to the “Not guilty” announcement:
THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING —————————————
Around 10 p.m. on July 6, 2017, a shooting was reported at 141 Lake Shore Drive East in the city. Above is the headshot given to the media the day after the shooting. The following day she was charged with second-degree murder.
‘I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS JULIAN’; GOING TO A GRAND JURY TRIAL —————————————
The OBSERVER reported that Ruiz didn’t know that Julian Duman, the man who was shot and killed, was behind the door. Ruiz believed it was Walter “Waldo” Duprey that was behind the door at the night of the shooting.
Ruiz was arraigned and remanded to Chautauqua County Jail with a Dunkirk City Judge announcing there was enough evidence to bring it to a grand jury trial.
THE GRAND JURY TRIAL BEGINS WITH OPENING STATEMENTS; PROSECUTION BEGINS CASE —————————————
The grand jury trial began on Wednesday, March 14, as the prosecution and defense gave their opening statements. Anthony L. Pendergrass, leading attorney for the defense, made a memorable performance as he began his defense statement with a long pause. Then he followed it up with pounding on a wooden podium and said, “(Expletive,) it’s Waldo. Open the mother (expletive) door, (expletive).”
After the opening statements, the prosecution brought witnesses to the stand to begin its case.
PROSECUTION RESTS CASE, DEFENSE REQUESTS WATTS —————————————
The prosecution rested its case after the second day of the trial. The prosecution proved that a bullet killed Julian Duman through the autopsy as well as the drugs that were within Duman’s system. The evidence presented included Ruiz’s 911 call and that she lied to the 911 operator saying the shooter ran, but when police arrived, she admitted she did it. There was no gun at the scene of the crime, however.
The defense asked if it could have Quentin Watts come to Chautauqua County Court on Tuesday, the next court date. His story was pivotal as he was an eye witness.
WATTS HALTS RUIZ MURDER TRIAL —————————————
Quentin Watts was a curveball to the entire Ruiz trial. Watts was an alleged eye witness to the crime. He gave a statement to Dunkirk City Police, then later told the defendant that he lied to Dunkirk Police and that he retracted his statement to District Attorney Patrick Swanson. Swanson, due to the admission of lying, charged his with filing a false instrument, but the impact that Watts may have made could have changed the entire trial.
DEFENSE RESTS CASE SHOWING RUIZ AS PROTECTIVE MOTHER —————————————
The defense for Rebecca Ruiz rested its case. Ruiz took the stand as there was no one left to tell what happened the night of, due to Watts being charged. Ruiz told her case stressing the violence and fear in the relationship between her and Walter “Waldo” Duprey.
The defense’s focal point was to have Ruiz in a stressful situation that built up to the night of the shooting.
JURY READ CHARGES; DEFENSE, PROSECUTION PRESENTS CLOSING STATEMENTS —————————————
The fifth day was finalizing what charges would be read to the jury prior to deliberations and the closing statements. The parties agreed that second-degree manslaughter should be added as a lesser charge with second-degree murder. Ruiz’s charges she faced going into deliberation were: murder or manslaughter, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence.
During closing statements, Anthony L. Pendergrass told Ruiz’s story with passion and mobility, emphasizing that Ruiz was a mother protecting her household and her children. District Attorney Patrick Swanson read what is applicable to the charges she faces and how she committed them. The closing statements ran until the end of the court day and deliberations began Friday.
RUIZ ACQUITTED OF MURDER, MANSLAUGHTER AND TAMPERING WITH EVIDENCE; GUILTY OF CRIMINAL POSSESSION —————————————
The jury decided its verdict after 2 and a half hours of deliberation. The foreperson stood and answered the clerk’s question of guilty or not guilty to murder. The jury voted not guilty. Ruiz was acquitted of all charges but the second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Ruiz will face a minimum sentencing of 3 1/2 years and up to 15 years in jail. However, this is a victory for the defense that could have been much steeper.