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Trial Underway In San Diego For Alleged Drug Gang Leaders

Evening Edition

Two alleged leaders of a San Diego drug gang with roots to the Arellano-Felix drug cartel in Tijuana are on trial in San Diego for multiple murders. The trial could take a year, at a time when the county court system is dealing with massive budget cuts.

Aired 3/27/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Randy Grossman, Adjunct Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Octavio Rodriguez, program coordinator, University of San Diego Trans-Border Institute


A trial is underway in San Diego of two alleged Mexican drug gang leaders accused of up to nine murders in San Diego.

Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Francisco Estrada Gonzalez are being tried for murders that occurred between 2004 and 2007. Some of the victims’ bodies were dissolved in acid.

The defendants are alleged leaders of Los Palillos, described as a mini cartel made up of defectors from Tijuana’s much larger Arellano-Felix Cartel.

Prosecutors say Los Palillos, which means "The Toothpicks," used a network of houses in Chula Vista and San Diego to smuggle drugs, hold kidnapping victims ransom and murder them.

The two defendants now on trial are already serving life sentences for earlier convictions including kidnapping.

Their trial in San Diego Superior Court is expected to last up to a year.

KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to this segment.

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Avatar for user 'tkterry'

tkterry | March 27, 2013 at 12:48 p.m. ― 4 years ago

As I understand it - these two defendants are already serving life sentences. Is it worth the extraordinary tax dollar burden to try them on further crimes? Who will this really serve?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 27, 2013 at 4:54 p.m. ― 4 years ago

tkterry, you are asking the right question.

And, to KPBS's credit, the reporter I heard delivering this story on mid-day report did a great job in pressing for an answer to this question.

The answer, of course, was insufficient (you can hear the nonsense if you play the mid-day show).

This is an absurd waste of time and money and Ms. Dumanis should have to explain to the tax payers why she is being so irresponsible with our resources when courts are already having to cut-back due to budget issues.

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