RENO, NV - The Nevada Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of Ernesto Gonzalez, who had been convicted of killing a Hells Angels president at the Nugget casino in 2011.
Throughout the trial, defense lawyers David Houston and Kenneth Lyon argued that certain rulings would result in an overturned verdict requiring the case to be tried again. Specifics of those rulings haven't been revealed, but the Supreme Court's reversal means the case goes back to District Court for a new trial.
Gonzalez had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering Jethro Pettigrew during Street Vibrations. Judge Connie Steinheimer said there was overwhelming evidence of guilt as she handed down the sentence.
Prosecutors had argued Gonzalez, a member of the Vagos motorcyle club, shot high-ranking Hells Angels member Jethro Pettigrew in an assassination plot.
Just before sentencing, Gonzalez told the court he saw a fight and shot Pettigrew to protect others. He looked at friends and family of Pettigrew and said they have his condolences.
Pettrigrew's mother delivered a victim impact statement to the court. Jeri Pettigrew said she felt the sentence was just.
"The way (Gonzalez) killed him... shooting somebody in the back... that's a coward," she said.
Gonzalez wasn't supposed to be eligible for parole for 28 years.
Jethro Pettigrew's friend, Bobby Lozano, said despite the possibility of parole, the sentence was fair.
"I think he's going to be there for a long, long time," he said.
Lozano described Pettigrew as dedicated to his family, especially his daughter. Jeri Pettigrew said her son worked for the City of San Jose, California for 22 years.
Before the sentencing, the defense filed a motion for a re-trial based on the argument the jury was confused by instructions. Steinheimer ruled the instructions were clear.
The Supreme Court ruling December 31, 2015 changes that.