Glendale: Defendants discuss deals in murder trial

Glendale news press
July 7 2004

Defendants discuss deals in murder trial
Selection of jurors starts today in teen’s stabbing, beating case.
Accused men might make pleas.

By Gary Moskowitz, News-Press

LOS ANGELES – The day before a retrial for accused killers Rafael
Gevorgyan and Karen Terteryan, their attorneys spent most of their
time debating last-minute plea bargains and preparing family members
for what might happen the second time around.

The men are accused in the beating and stabbing death of Hoover High
School student Raul Aguirre in 2000.

Last week, Terteryan was willing to accept an offer of 23 years and
eight months in prison. He is accused of stabbing Aguirre in the
heart during a fight. Gevorgyan, who is accused of hitting Aguirre on
the head with a crowbar, declined a plea bargain last week for 16
years in prison, and maintained his position Tuesday.

If convicted of murder, both men could face sentences of 25 years to
life in prison. The first jury deadlocked on charges against the men.

Gevorgyan, during Tuesday’s pretrial hearing, told the judge he
wanted to waive his right to a jury trial and have the judge hear the
case. When the judge questioned him about that decision, Gevorgyan
changed his mind and opted for a jury trial.

“My client is innocent, and the fact that he agreed to go with a jury
trial is proof of that,” said Andrew Flier, Gevorgyan’s attorney. “As
far as I’m concerned, I won a murder trial today. My client did not
kill anyone and is innocent of murder charges.”

Aguirre was 17 on May 5, 2000, when he tried to intervene in what
police say was a gang fight between a former co-worker of Aguirre’s
and Terteryan and Gevorgyan. Investigators have said Aguirre was not
a gang member.

Shepard Kopp, who is Terteryan’s attorney in the retrial, declined to
comment on whether his client was still interested in a plea deal.

“We are talking about trying this case, and that’s it,” Kopp said. He
added that the defendants might have the chance to accept plea
bargains today, before jury selection begins.

Gevorgyan’s aunt, Olga Manedjian, said she felt confident in her
nephew’s decision to go to a jury trial. Manedjian and other family
members held their hands to their faces in anticipation as Gevorgyan
made his decision to go to trial.

“He thinks it’s better, and it is his only hope,” Manedjian said. “I
was thinking he might take a deal, but he knows better than I do. I
know this is hard for him, but I think we should go to trial, too.”

During Tuesday’s pretrial hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Darrell Mavis
said he plans to use a taped conversation between the defendants as
they sat in the back of a police car after their arrest. The tape was
introduced during the first trial but the jury did not hear the tape
because questions arose about its translation from Armenian.

Mavis also plans to introduce new DNA tests that allegedly show
Aguirre’s blood on the crowbar that Gevorgyan is accused of wielding.
Gevorgyan testified during the first trial that he did not swing the
crowbar or hit Aguirre with it.

On Tuesday, Flier argued that the tape should not be admitted as
evidence because it is almost inaudible.

“We thought the tape was useful before, and still is now,” Mavis
said. “We decided it wasn’t going to be in the best interest of our
strategic efforts before, but it will become more clear as we try
this case again.”

Judge Michael Johnson will conduct oral questioning of about 75
jurors in the next two days.