A Laramie County district judge has granted a defense attorney’s request to keep evidence of marijuana use, gun possession and earlier violence out of a Cheyenne teenager’s first-degree murder trial.
District Court Judge Catherine Rodgers has set a hearing for Oct. 23, to hear one more argument about evidence – on whether she should let the prosecutor include evidence alleging that Johnny Angel Muñoz, who is 17 this year, is affiliated with a gang.
Muñoz faces one count of first-degree murder and another of conspiracy to commit murder in the fatal April 30 shooting of 15-year-old Baylee Carabajal at Cheyenne’s Lincoln Park.
He faces a possible lifetime in prison.
David Korman, Muñoz’s defense attorney, argued in a series of motions Sept. 5 for Judge Rodgers to exclude certain evidence from Muñoz’s pool of trial evidence.
Guns, Gangs, Fights And Marijuana
Police searched Muñoz’s cellphone, the phone of Muñoz’s codefendant Julian Espinoza, and another male’s phone during their investigation into the shooting, according to Korman’s motions. They’ve also gathered tips and interviews.
Police have found indications that Muñoz’s intended shooting target, Joey Carabajal Jr., is affiliated with a gang, as well as possible evidence that Muñoz is affiliated with a gang.
Korman is arguing that this evidence is more likely to prejudice the jury against Muñoz than it is to shed light on the alleged murder.
While Rodgers hasn’t yet decided on that, she did grant Korman’s other motions to exclude other evidence from Muñoz’s upcoming Nov. 28 trial.
This includes evidence of Muñoz’s suspected marijuana use, prior involvement in physical altercations, and his suspected gun possession or involvement with others possessing guns.
For example, data extracted from the investigated phones revealed discussions about guns and images, references and videos involving guns. There were revolvers, long guns and pictures of different people displaying these weapons, says Korman’s motion.
None of the guns involved in the shooting from April 30 have been recovered, Korman added.
“Two (firearms) were seized and analyzed by law enforcement during the investigation. Neither of those weapons were used in this matter,” says the defender’s motion.
Korman has yet to argue and prove whether evidence of Muñoz’s alleged gang affiliation is irrelevant to his trial.
Korman’s motion claims that prosecutors are exploring a suspected, ongoing gang war between Muñoz and Carabajal Jr., a young adult in Cheyenne who was accused in his own, separate homicide case in 2022.
But the defender is arguing that gang affiliations won’t be necessary for prosecutors to elicit testimony about tensions and grudges between the two young men.
He’s also arguing that saying the name of a gang in court will inflame the jury against Muñoz without advancing enough evidentiary value to overcome that reaction.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.