Dark chapter finally comes to a close
April 30, 2003
An ending was written last week to a long, dark chapter in Carson City’s history with the sentencing of the last of the defendants in the Sammy Resendiz murder.
It took nearly five years, and the repercussions will linger for many more years for those who were affected. For the one man who went to trial, Rocky Boice Jr., an ending may not be written for 20 to 50 years, the term he has been sentenced to spend in prison.
The racial overtones of the killing, the arrest and the subsequent prosecution threatened to boil over many times.
When a dozen people were arrested, nearly all of them from Carson City’s close-knit Indian community, some accused the sheriff’s department of racial bias and a “lynch mob” mentality. The fact that Resendiz was a former member of Carson City’s best-known gang also created a potential source of ignition.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. In the months after Resendiz’s death and the subsequent arrests, there were peaceful demonstrations involving both American Indians and Hispanics. Their message: We are not fighting each other; we are seeking justice.
Among the cooler heads was District Attorney Noel Waters, who took the case presented to him by sheriff’s investigators and prepared for a series of trials. At the first, for Boice, there were again peaceful demonstrations of support by his family and friends, but there were also a few public allegations that he could never receive a fair trial in Carson City.
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In laying out his case, Waters played it straight down the middle. Race, bias, gang affiliations — all potential detours — never became the issues. The facts showed a brutal beating, with many participants, although it could never be established exactly which blow or blows proved fatal.
After the Boice trial, the rest of the defendants entered guilty pleas. The justice system in Carson City was tested, and it held up. Waters obtained convictions on every one of the people charged.
In retrospect, Boice’s sentence does seem out of line with the others’, none of whom received more than five years in prison. We agree with District Judge Michael Griffin when he says the sentence should be reviewed.
To the objective observer, however, it appears the wishes of those demonstrators nearly five years ago eventually were fulfilled. Justice prevailed.