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East Palo Alto murder trial begins

Attorney for accused says shooting was justified

An attorney for an East Palo Alto resident accused of fatally shooting a man said Monday (Jan. 3) that his client was justified in his actions because he was defending himself, his pregnant girlfriend and his family.

Defense attorney John May and Deputy District Attorney Joseph Cannon gave opening statements Monday morning in San Mateo County Superior Court in the trial of Kevin Maldonado. The 21-year-old is charged with killing 19-year-old Israel Polvo and attempting to kill Polvo's friend on Sept. 6, 2009, as the three men argued in the 2100 block of Cooley Avenue in front of Maldonado's East Palo Alto home.

Polvo died at Stanford Medical Center, about 30 minutes after he was shot in the chest and a bullet pierced his ribs, lung and lodged in his spine.

"It's pretty clear that the defendant is the shooter in this case," Cannon told the jury.

"The defendant has done everything he could not to be brought to justice," Cannon said, including lying, convincing witnesses to lie and getting rid of evidence.

The prosecution said that Maldonado became enraged when Polvo and his friend confronted him over rumors the defendant was planning to escalate a prior fistfight the men had.

"The defendant wanted a rematch," Cannon said.

May did not dispute the fact that Maldonado was the man who fired three shots from a .38 caliber semi-automatic handgun -- one of which struck and killed Polvo -- and left in his girlfriend's car.

"He was justified in shooting the three rapid shots to defend himself, his pregnant girlfriend and his family," May said.

He said that Maldonado defended himself and his loved ones in the face of a "sudden and unprovoked attack."

"This is a self-defense case," May said.

Maldonado has already pleaded guilty to the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting. Maldonado's girlfriend, Elizabeth Puga, who was accused of driving the getaway car, pleaded no contest in October 2009 to one count of being an accessory to murder and one count of attempted murder, according to the district attorney's office.

Maldonado could get 75 years to life in prison if he is convicted. He remains in custody without bail.

— Bay City News Service

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