“Socalj” for Borderland Beat
Six men and a woman with ties to the Mexican Mafia were taken into custody, accused of selling drugs and staging kidnappings out of a house on Wunderlin Avenue near 68th Street, and using it to store weapons, cash, and drugs.
|More than a dozen weapons, including two explosive devices, were seized from the home, according to local and federal agents.
The gang members operating out of the home were apparently being controlled by a boss far away. “What is disturbing is that the key leader of the Mexican Mafia had his tentacles in this particular criminal organization and was doing it from death row in prison,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said.
|Mexican Mafia member Ronnie Ayala and his brother Hector in the early 1990s.|
Leader Ronnie Ayala
In 2015, the US Supreme Court upheld his death penalty conviction for the execution-style slayings of the three men in an auto-shop robbery. The justices split 5-4 on the decision citing differing views on his jury being tainted by the dismissal of all black and Hispanic jurors during the selection process. When the defense objected, the judge heard the prosecutor’s reasons behind closed doors without the defense present, so as not to reveal the trial strategy. In looking at the record available in the case, the court agreed that the prosecution was able to offer reasonable arguments why the jurors were dismissed for reasons other than race.
In an aside opinion, Kennedy took the opportunity to express his concerns with the solitary confinement conditions in which many prisoners like Ayala are held and suggested that he would be open to hearing a case on the issue.
He said that if Ayala is in a typical solitary confinement situation, it is likely he “has been held for all or most of the past 20 years or more in a windowless cell no larger than a typical parking spot for 23 hours a day; and in the one hour when he leaves it, he likely is allowed little or no opportunity for conversation or interaction with anyone.”
Little did Justice Kennedy know, Ayala did not lack the ability to communicate with those on the outside.