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Nov. 27, 2021

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Corrections officer describes scene of 2018 Yakima County jail beating death on first day of murder trial

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YAKIMA — Yakima County Department of Corrections Cpl. Krystal Martin told a jury Monday what she saw the night Yakima County jail inmate Jacob Ozuna was beaten to death outside his cell in 2018.

She said she was called to an incident in F unit on the fourth floor, where Ozuna was being housed with other Norteño gang members.

Her testimony came immediately after opening arguments in Deryk Alexander Donato’s trial in Yakima County Superior Court. He’s been charged with first-degree murder.

Donato, 28, is the third and final suspect to go through court proceedings in the case.

Prosecutors say he and fellow inmates — Julian Luis Gonzalez and Felipe Luis Jr. — killed Ozuna on Dec. 9, 2018, because he killed another Norteño, a violation of the gang’s 14 bonds.

Ozuna, 36, was facing murder charges in the death of Dario Alvarado, another Norteño, near Toppenish earlier that year.

Defense attorney Scott Bruns argues that there’s no evidence proving Donato intended to kill Ozuna.

On Monday, Martin told jurors she arrived at the unit and found other corrections officers and medics assisting Ozuna, who lay in a pool of blood on the unit’s first floor.

Martin said bloody drag marks extended from a pool of blood on the first floor where Ozuna laid and stretched upstairs to the second tier, were another pool of blood dripped to the floor below.

Martin said she began documenting the scene.

“I continued to take pictures of all the blood,” she said.

Martin said she viewed jail surveillance video of the attack and immediately contacted the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, which immediately sent investigators.

She told jurors video surveillance showed Ozuna being attacked on the upper tier and dragged by his feet down the stairs to the main floor, where the assault continued.

Deputy prosecutor Sam Chen showed jurors the photos of the trail and pools of blood. He also showed them a photo of Ozuna as he lay on the cell floor, his face bloody and disfigured from being punched and stomped.

In opening arguments, Chen told jurors they’d see the video of Ozuna’s beating and that his death was the result of violating his gang’s rules.

Chen told jurors that Donato and the other men surrounded Ozuna and repeatedly punched and kicked him, dragged him by his feet to the lower tier, and continued the assault well after Ozuna lay nearly motionless.

“Why? Because Jacob Ozuna violated the 14 bonds,” Chen said.

Chen noted that Ozuna died of repeated blows to his head from Donato and the others.

“This was done to basically benefit their membership in the Norteño gang because that’s how they survive, how they uphold the 14 bonds or further themselves in the Norteño gang,” Chen told the jury.

Bruns in his opening argument told jurors the state lacks any evidence that Donato and the others intended to kill Ozuna.

“This is a homicide — it is not a murder,” Bruns said. “There is nothing you will see that proves this is gang related — that’s speculation.”

Bruns said Ozuna was still alive when corrections officers found him. Ozuna later died at a hospital.

Bruns said Donato and the others didn’t stab, strangle or use any other means to murder Ozuna.

“This was a beatdown,” he said.

“We will ask you to find that this is not murder — it’s manslaughter,” Bruns said.

Court proceedings for the other two men involved have concluded. Gonzalez, 22, also faced a first-degree murder charge but was sentenced to 24 years in prison after entering an Alford plea. In that plea, Gonzalez didn’t admit guilt but conceded prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

A jury found Luis, also 22, guilty of first-degree manslaughter and he was sentenced to 12 years and three months in prison.

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