Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 30, 2013

Killer in gang fight rebuffed by court

By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

— The man who shot and killed a Goshen teen seven years ago has lost his challenge before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Oscar Eduardo Perez, 27, had argued that his legal counsel was ineffective. In an opinion filed Wednesday, the appellate court ruled otherwise.

The shooting took place in February 2006. According to court documents, Perez and others affiliated with the Nortenos gang went to a nightclub in Goshen, where they got into a confrontation with rival gang the Surenos. Perez left the club and headed north on U.S. 33 in an Acura his brother was driving. Other Nortenos rode along separately in a Dodge Durango.

While on U.S. 33, the Nortenos encountered a group of Surenos riding in a Chevy Malibu. Perez grabbed an SKS and fired several shots at the Malibu, which drifted off the road.

Rogelio Reyes, 14, was a passenger in that vehicle. He was hit in the eye by one of the shots, the bullet passing through the left side of his brain and killing him. Saul Rodriguez, the driver of the Malibu, was also hit by one of the bullets.

An Elkhart Circuit Court jury found Perez guilty of murder, attempted murder and criminal gang activity. Perez was later sentenced to 85 years in prison.

According to Elkhart County prosecutors, Perez first lost an appeal in 2007. Most recently, he challenged his convictions via post-conviction relief. Through that process, someone can challenge his or her conviction by arguing that defense attorneys were not effective.

Perez said his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the issue of self-defense during the trial, according to prosecutors. He also said his appellate counsel was ineffective for not challenging the additional charge of attempted murder.

Evidentiary hearings took place in November 2011 and June 2012. In a November 2012 order, Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker denied Perez post-conviction relief. Perez appealed Shewmaker’s ruling to the Court of Appeals.

The appellate court determined that Perez’s attorneys were not ineffective.

“The Court discarded Perez’s contention that self-defense was a viable defense, stating that such a defense was ‘doomed to fail,’” reads a statement from the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office. “The Court further held that the State was permitted to add the attempted murder charge, and that such an objection on appeal would not have succeeded.”

Perez is an inmate in the Indiana Department of Correction. He is one of 40 people indicted in federal court last year for allegedly running a drug ring from inside the state prison system. Perez’s federal case has not been resolved.