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MA- Judge reluctantly accepts plea

4-19-2008 Massachusetts:

SPRINGFIELD - A Holyoke man pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder in the Oct. 25, 2006, shooting of 37-year-old Jose A. Marte of Holyoke.

Luis Lopez, 19, was sentenced by Hampden Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis to the mandatory life sentence. A second-degree murder sentence sets parole eligibility at 15 years, but offers no guarantee of parole.

Assistant District Attorney Laurel H. Brandt said that three men killed Marte in the 91 Newton St. house where he was staying because they incorrectly believed he had assaulted a teenage girl.

Velis, after hearing details of the murder from Brandt, said, "I think you'll all agree - what in God's name has our society come to?" He said the killing showed "there is no respect for human life."

The cases of two co-defendants, Felix A. Vargas, 28, and Carlos A. Cardona, 19, are pending. All three men are from Holyoke and were charged with the killing under the joint venture theory.

Velis said he was reluctant to accept Lopez' plea to second-degree murder for such a heinous crime. In response, Brandt said that in this case it was appropriate to accept the certainty of his plea instead of taking the case to a jury.

She said one thing jurors would have heard at trial is different accounts of what happened from Lopez and the two co-defendants who would testify. One difference would be about who actually fired the gun, she said.

Maria Cavalieri, one of Marte's stepdaughters, said he had meant the world to his family. She said he was "a rock for everyone," and "everything a father was supposed to be."

She said he would pile the family into the car and "away we'd go." Cavalieri said Marte had taken the family to the Statue of Liberty and shows in New York City.

Defense lawyer Elaine M. Pourinski said that Lopez, whose mother and aunt were in the courtroom, is remorseful and ashamed of his actions.

Brandt said that the three men had come to the house with the incorrect belief that the person who had assaulted the teen ran there and hid. Although Marte and another man said they had both been in the house and had not been involved, the men saw a black jacket of Marte's on a bed.

The men had heard the girl's assailant wore a black hooded sweatshirt, Brandt said. "The three vigilantes decided it was conclusive evidence," she said.

The other man who lived in the home saw Lopez strike Marte with the gun and then all three men joined in the beating, Brandt said.

Marte was shot in the left back, left chest, left arm, left thigh, right thigh and right forearm, Brandt said. Lopez told police that Cardona was the shooter, she said. Cardona would have testified that Lopez was the shooter, she said. ..more.. by BUFFY

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