Eduardo and Gerardo Sifuentes were both sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years for the shooting death of Eduardo Delgadillo, 19, on Oct. 4, 2008, at Ivy Commons apartment complex in Austell.
The Sifuentes brothers belonged to the Nortenos 14 or “Northside” gang, which got into a deadly confrontation with Delgadillo and his friends, who were members of the rival Hispanic gang Surenos 13, also known as the “Southsiders.”
Eduardo Sifuentes, 17, was visiting his girlfriend at Ivy Commons, which had been claimed as the territory of the Southsiders.
The violence was touched off when a member of the Nortenos gang disrespected Delgadillo’s wife.
When Delgadillo heard about the incident, he got around seven of his fellow Southsiders to go to the apartments where one of them punched Eduardo in the face.
Eduardo came to aid his younger brother, Gerardo, wielding a 12-gauge shotgun. He shot Delgadillo, who died from a gunshot wound to the stomach. Two other men were also shot, but survived their injuries.
The high court ruled that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to enable a rational person to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the brothers were guilty, “either as principal or accomplice, of all the crimes of which they were convicted,” with the exception of three counts against one of the brothers involving theft by taking, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein wrote in Thursday’s opinion.
According to a member of the Cobb Anti-Gang Enforcement Unit, the Norteno-Sureno gang war originated in California where the Nortenos claimed northern parts of the state as their territory and the Surenos claimed the southern portion of the state. As Eduardo and his 15-year-old friend, Danny Aleman, were walking through the complex, Aleman “disrespected” the wife of Eduardo Delgadillo, a member of the rival Surenos gang.
Eduardo then called his brother, Gerardo, told him what had happened, and asked him to come to the complex with a gun. Gerardo took a loaded .12 gauge pump-action shotgun from a small shed owned by a friend, Larry Hulsey, and headed over to the apartments. When Delgadillo heard someone was coming with a gun, he asked one of his companions, Francisco Lopez, to get the pistol from Delgadillo’s car. Gerardo arrived and he, Eduardo and Aleman were standing at Gerardo’s car. Aleman later testified that Eduardo told him he should run “if you hear the first shot.”
Tensions continued to mount as the women associated with the two gangs started yelling and gang members began approaching each other. Gerardo then fired his gun, first hitting Delgadillo in the chest, then hitting Elijah Espinoza and Mauricio Medina. Delgadillo died at the scene; the other two survived. Following the shooting, the group scattered, including the brothers. Gerardo and Eduardo were arrested three days later. Each gave a statement to police.
At trial, Gerardo testified he had fired his weapon only after he saw Delgadillo reach for his waistband. According to the Sifuentes brothers, the Surenos were advancing on Gerardo despite his repeated demand to back up. Other witnesses testified, however, that Delgadillo pleaded with Gerardo not to shoot because children of the Surenos were present, but Gerardo responded, “I don’t give a f---,” then pulled the trigger. The lead detective also testified that in his pretrial statements, Gerardo had made no mention of seeing Delgadillo reach for his waistband.
At a jury trial in August 2009, Gerardo and Eduardo were both found guilty of numerous crimes, including malice murder, criminal street gang activity and weapons violations. They were sentenced to life plus 25 years in prison. They appealed to the state Supreme Court on several grounds, including that the evidence was insufficient to prove guilt, their trial attorneys were incompetent, and in Gerardo’s case, the trial court was wrong to deny his pretrial motion requesting immunity from prosecution based on self-defense.
In Thursday’s opinion, the high court rejected all their arguments.