County of Conviction: Los Angeles
Convicted of: Attempted Murder, Aggravated Mayhem
Sentence: Life plus 25 years
Year of Conviction: 2004
On February 1, 2002, Jesus Soberanes, Raul Flores, and Angela Castro were at Alberto Ibarra’s apartment drinking beer when someone knocked at the front door. Soberanes answered the door. The individual, later incorrectly identified as Chairez, asked who owned the white car parked in the carport area in the alley. Soberanes knew the car belonged to Ibarra, so Soberanes called Ibarra to the front door. The individual said there was something wrong with the car, and Ibarra accompanied the individual outside. Soberanes followed the two outside, but the individual told Soberanes to stop, and Soberanes returned to the apartment.
As Ibarra and the individual approached the carport, the individual informed Ibarra that the neighborhood was Varrio Nuevo Estrada (VNE) gang territory and to stop butting into VNE affairs. As the individual began throwing gang signs, Ibarra saw the shadows of two or three other individuals 25 to 30 feet away. Ibarra told the individual to “fuck off,” and checked on his car. As Ibarra turned, the individual shot Ibarra in the back of the head and hit Ibarra in the left eye with a metal object.
Once officers arrived on the scene, Soberanes described the shooter as a Hispanic male with a shaved head and large eyes, 17-20 years old, 5’10’’ to 5’11”, and weighing 150 pounds. When Detective Victor Corella arrived at the scene of the crime, he noticed VNE gang members loitering in the area. Corella interviewed Soberanes at the police station. Corella showed Soberanes a five to six page VNE gang book with 12 to 16 photographs on each page. Soberanes initially pointed out Barajas’ photograph. However, Soberanes told the detective that the individual was a little younger, lighter, and had larger eyes than Barajas.
Corella knew that Barajas was almost 6 feet tall, in his early 20’s, weighed 190 to 200 pounds, and had a tattoo on his neck and arms. Chairez’s picture was not in the book at the time. Based on the information provided by Soberanes, Corella and other officers decided to look for a suspect younger and lighter skinned than Barajas. Police focused on Chairez because of their similar features.
On March 20, 2002, Corella went to Soberanes’ house with another photo lineup that included Chairez’s photograph, but not one of Barajas. Corella did not include Barajas’ photograph and eliminated Barajas as a suspect because he was “too old,” although Barajas fell within the age range given by Soberanes. Soberanes picked Chairez’s photograph, but noted that the perpetrator was thinner than Chairez. Soberanes also identified Chairez in court. However, Soberanes stated Chairez looked a little younger then the person he remembered at the door.
Ibarra was in a coma for about 10 days and remained in the hospital for four weeks. On March 2, 2002, Ibarra selected Chairez’s photograph as the perpetrator from a photo lineup that Corella showed him at the hospital. This photo lineup also did not include Barajas’s picture. Ibarra also identified Chairez in court.
On April 10, 2009, Barajas called CIP to speak to the student on the case. The student began the conversation by asking Barajas what he thought of his brother’s case. Barajas responded that “he didn’t do it.” The student asked Barajas if he knew who shot Ibarra. Barajas responded “I did it. I was the one who shot him.” Barajas explained he did not come forward with this information earlier because Chairez’s case went to trial before Barajas’. Barajas believed that Chairez could possibly be found innocent; Barajas did not want to take the blame for shooting Ibarra if he had a chance to go free. Barajas told the student, “I thought I had a chance if I just didn’t say anything.”
Following the telephone conversation, Barajas put the information in writing. In a letter dated April 15, 2009, Barajas confessed to Ibarra’s attempted murder, including a detailed description of the shooting that mirrors Soberanes’ and Ibarra’s version of events, giving weight to the truth of Barajas’ confession.
Anthony Chairez’s case is one of misidentification. Chairez was identified as the shooter by both a witness and the victim. However, the real shooter, Enrique Barajas, recently confessed to committing the crime. Barajas is Chairez’s half-brother who, amidst his own legal troubles, was unwilling to come forward earlier because he did not want to implicate himself in any other crimes. Barajas and Chairez strongly resemble one another. Chairez still sits in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Chairez still sits in prison for a crime he did not commit. CIP is in the process of finalizing a petition for writ of habeas corpus on Chairez’s behalf. It is expected to be filed in the near future.