Two men face convictions for the fatal stabbing of 21-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine during a Gaslamp Quarter brawl nearly five years ago that left another Marine wounded.
Jose Oscar Esqueda, 41, was found guilty of first-degree murder. Co-defendant Jeff Shai Holliday, 28, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 21-year-old Ryan Harris during the 2017 Gaslamp Quarter brawl.
A dual jury was tasked to decide the fate of each defendant. Esqueda's jury returned verdicts on Monday, sealed until Holliday's jury returned with their verdicts on Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, Esqueda was charged with stabbing both victims while Holiday faces charges of murder and assault for initiating the brawl by sucker-punching a different Marine.
On Dec.29, 2017, at about 1 a.m., the two men wandered the Gaslamp “looking for victims”,
according to Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lawson.
According to Lawson, the men scanned the downtown area before spotting Christopher De Herrera, who was alone at the corner of Island and Sixth avenues.
Surveillance footage showed that Esqueda and De Herrera exchanged words before Holliday punched De Herrera in the head from behind. Four Marines that witnessed the altercation ran in to intervene.
Esqueda's attorney, Zaki Zawahi argued the Gaslamp Bar Brawl was initiated after De Herrera asked Esqueda, "Where you from?", indicative of a gang challenge that leads to violence. The attorney argued Esqueda used a knife to lawfully defend himself after the Marines jumped in.
Lawson noted to the jurors that this pattern mirrored a pair of attempted robberies carried out by the defendants earlier in the year.
Earlier that year, the two men were convicted of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in two separate incidents in Pacific Beach and Chula Vista.
According to prosecutors, the pair was found guilty of stealing a bicycle from a couple in Pacific Beach on April 15 and accosting shoppers on April 29, at the Chula Vista mall.