A Carson City jury will continue its deliberations today after closing arguments Tuesday evening capped off a motel-room beating murder trial four years in the making.
The jury began deliberating Tuesday evening after two weeks of testimony in the Aug. 23, 1998, death of Sammy Resendiz at the Round House Inn.
Calling the charge of first-degree murder "baloney," a defense attorney said Rocky Boice Jr. entered a Carson City motel room not intending to kill anyone, but instead was "courageous" in standing up to years of bullying and ultimately was forced to defend himself.
Laurence Lichter told the jury Boice, 23, had no choice but to protect himself when Resendiz, a reputed gang member, threatened to shoot "in conformity with his reputation."
"Instead of this being characterized as a cowardly act, it's about courage," Lichter said. "These poor kids have been brutalized -- all these Native American kids -- brutalized by a sophisticated gang structure. They just couldn't stand getting beaten anymore."
Boice said he and a group Native American cousins and friends went to the room to confront Israel "Muppet" Ralla, who earlier in the evening had hit Boice's cousin, Jessica Evans, in the face.
When the group arrived an hour later, Ralla was gone, but Resendiz, Carlos Lainez and Carolee Simpson remained. Resendiz died from his injuries sustained in a beating; Lainez survived. Simpson was unharmed.
Boice is the first of nine defendants to stand trial on charges of first-degree murder, burglary, conspiracy to commit battery and battery with a deadly weapon.
The first-degree murder charge is based on Nevada's felony murder rule, when the act causing death is alleged to have occurred in the commission of a burglary. Burglary is defined as entering a room with the intent to commit an underlying felony, such as assault or theft. The case was postponed while the charges were appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.
District Attorney Noel Waters told jurors Tuesday if they believe Boice entered the room with the intent to commit battery, he can't claim self-defense under the law.
"You're not entitled to use self-defense to excuse your conduct when you're there to commit a crime," he said, likening Resendiz to a bank security guard who draws a weapon to stop a robber and is then shot by the robber. "Defenses of self-defense do not apply to cases charged under the felony murder rule," he said.
Waters said the two survivors in the room told the jury what happened.
"And another occupant of that room talks -- Sammy Resendiz's body talks," he said.
Resendiz suffered 18 to 22 blows, at least four of those to his head causing brain swelling and death.
"This is no longer a whodunit, but a why-dunit," Waters said.
"Rocky Boice told you he hit (Resendiz) on the head. Obviously, doing that to a human being can cause grievous bodily harm and death. It's not rocket science, ladies and gentlemen."
Lichter, however, claimed the group, especially Boice, had no idea they were going to a motel room. He said they only knew that Evans had been battered and Boice wanted to "confront" Ralla, an admitted member of the Eastwood Tokers street gang that had administered beatings on a number of Native American teens in the past.
"Rocky Boice Jr. had loyalty. Rocky Boice Jr. has freewill, but Rocky didn't act out of loyalty alone," Lichter said, calling Boice and his co-defendants "braves" as he described Resendiz's and the gang's reputation of violence and gun play.
"Rocky's cultural heritage is if you hit a woman, it's not something to be ignored -- but it's not something to die over," Lichter said.
He said the group had no idea who was in the room or what they were armed with, only that the gang was known to have guns. So to prevent violence they brought pipes, sticks, bats and chains.
Boice wanted to talk with whoever had hit Evans because he had a rapport with the gang.
"These gangsters respected (Boice). He could talk to them."
It was only after Resendiz threatened to shoot that Boice entered the room to "disable him." because "Number one, we can't outrun a bully and, number two, he had people behind him," Lichter said.
"If Rocky really believed the guy was going to shoot him, he had a right to hit him.
"This case is really about some of the most disadvantaged kids in the area turning against each other until they explode," he said. "(Rocky) is the one whose life hangs in the balance. There's no way to bring Sammy back. I hope you come back and acquit Rocky cause his life is worth saving."
If convicted of first-degree murder, Boice could face life in prison.
The jury also was given instructions on second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter as possible convictions.