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News / Northwest

Mistrial declared in Pasco attempted murder case. There weren’t enough jurors

By Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald
Published: August 5, 2022, 7:38am

KENNEWICK — A lack of available jurors forced a judge to cancel an attempted murder trial in Pasco that has been pending for nearly four years.

Cesar Alejandro Mendoza, 24, is accused of opening fire from a car in a gang-related case of mistaken identity in October 2018, according to Franklin County court records.

He is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, drive-by shooting, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, illegal gun possession and witness tampering.

Opening statements were scheduled to start Thursday, but too few potential jurors and the timing of vacations and other obligations led Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Stam to declare a mistrial.

Court Clerk Michael Killian later told the Herald that 57 of the potential pool of 100 jurors reported for duty Wednesday for what was expected to be a two-week trial.

While that is fewer than the usual 65 who normally respond, the smaller number wouldn’t usually be a problem for less serious cases.

Then more potential jurors were sent home for feeling sick and others were disqualified. But the real problem came when the judge asked how many had upcoming vacations, weddings or other unavoidable events during the next two weeks.

More than half of the potential jurors stood up, Stam wrote in her order declaring a mistrial.

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Soon, it was clear there wouldn’t be enough jurors for a 12-person panel and three alternates.

“It’s an anomaly, for sure,” Killian said, adding that the length of the trial and the timing would likely still have been a problem if they had called twice as many potential jurors to show up.

Mendoza’s trial is expected to be rescheduled for September.

He continues to be held in the Franklin County jail in lieu of $620,000 bail.

2018 shooting

Mendoza has been in jail since the 2018 shooting in Pasco. Investigators believe he was one of four people who got into a white 4-door sedan and followed a green Honda out of the Walmart parking lot on Road 68.

The two men had walked between a gang-related dispute and attracted the attention of four suspected out-of-town gang members in a white sedan. Neither of the victims had ties to gangs, said investigators.

The suspects in the white car yelled at the men and it turned into a high-speed chase as the victims tried to outrun them.

Mendoza allegedly leaned out of the passenger window and shot Orfanel Campos-Pineda four times — once in the face and three times in the upper left chest — one bullet missed his heart by inches.

The suspects sped away, but Mendoza and another man were arrested 20 hours later when they reappeared in Walmart.

Campos-Pineda later told police he was trying to outrun the other car but ended up crashing after he was shot. He was 20 at the time and was hospitalized and required several lengthy surgeries. His friend was not seriously injured.

The three other men in the car with Mendoza already have been sentenced to prison for their roles.

The driver, Esmeralda Cabrera-Castro, and other passengers Ricardo Munoz Estrada and Luis A. Hurtado Diaz pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder.

Cabrera-Castro of Moses Lake and Munoz Estrada of Quincy are doing seven years and eight months in prison.

Hurtado Diaz, of George, Wash., was 16 at the time but was sentenced as an adult in July 2020 to similar prison term.