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Gang Member Sentenced to Death for San Gabriel Valley Hate-Related Murder

Desi Marentes, 34, was sentenced Thursday for the slaying of Eric Buckley who was killed on April 5, 2006.

A Latino gang member was sentenced to death for the racially motivated murder of a black man in the San Gabriel Valley.

Desi Marentes, 34, was found guilty of first-degree murder last September in the slaying of 35-year-old Duarte resident Eric Buckley, who was shot as he walked on a La Puente street to catch a bus home after work.

"There is overwhelming evidence ... that death is warranted," Judge Michael E. Pastor said in denying a defense motion to reduce the jury's death penalty recommendation.

The judge described the April 2006 crime as the "vicious, cold-blooded, calculated" killing of a "childlike victim" because of "the color of his skin."

Marentes -- who had never met Buckley -- fired many of the shots while the victim was "lying helplessly on the ground," intentionally shooting into the man's groin area, Pastor said.

Shackled at the waist and wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, Marentes showed no reaction during the hearing. Asked by the judge if he wished to make a statement, he responded, "I don't wanna address the court."

His attorney, William McKinney, argued that the execution of his client "is not going to benefit society and will only lessen society's interests."

Along with the first-degree murder conviction, jurors found true the special circumstance allegations that Marentes intentionally killed Buckley because of his race, that Marentes was an active participant in a criminal street gang, and that the murder was carried out to further gang activities.

Pastor referred to Marentes' "extensive history of violent criminal conduct," and said the defendant's denial of committing the murder was "incredible."

During the trial, the jury saw photos of a number of Marentes' tattoos, including a "187" -- California's penal code section for murder -- on his trigger finger.

Deputy District Attorney Frank Santoro told jurors that Buckley was shot about 10 times, and only because he was black. The prosecutor also said Marentes had been in a fight with a different black man earlier that day and "purposefully hunted and killed a black person" in an act of "revenge and hatred."

In court today, Santoro read a letter from the victim's mother, Mae Lean Buckley, whose husband Virgil died in 2009. The victim had lived with his parents in the Duarte home where he grew up with his brother, Patrick.

Mentioning Wednesday night's rainfall, Buckley wrote that last evening she had "cried and screamed because I was alone and missed Eric."

Addressing Marentes, she wrote of her late son's welcoming nature: "Eric would've loved you and done anything for you."

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