Two men face trial in Fresno slaying
Jan 12, 2013 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Two Fresno men will stand trial in a botched robbery that left a shop owner dead and a shop employee injured, a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Christopher Roberts, 21, and Dwayne Dodson, 35, are accused of attempting to rob at gunpoint the Super 1 convenience store at 3701 E. Tulare St. in southeast Fresno.
Shopkeeper Kashmir Manes was shot and later died. An employee survived.
Because the judge found a special circumstance -- murder during the commission of a robbery -- Dodson and Roberts could face the death penalty.
During a hearing Friday, video was shown of two masked men entering the store about 11 p.m. on Aug. 23, one waving a pistol near the counter and a second man moving in and out of the video frame.
Two hours earlier, Roberts, who was unmasked, had entered the store apparently to pay for gas. A little over an hour later, both he and Dodson were videotaped at the counter of a second store two miles away.
Police believe they returned to the Super 1 with clothing over their heads to cover their faces.
Video from another store robbery in 2007 showed two men with clothing over their faces in a similar way. Roberts admitted to that robbery. Dodson was not involved.
Two teens leaving the Super 1 store in August saw a four-door car that looked like an older model Ford Crown Victoria -- similar to a police undercover car -- with a distinct dent in an alley behind the store.
After returning home and hearing police sirens a few minutes later, they told police about the car. A couple hours later, police stopped Roberts as he was driving near Fresno and B streets. He was arrested after the witnesses identified the car.
After Friday's hearing, Judge Arlan Harrell took the unusual step of examining the evidence on his own. After 10 minutes, he said there was enough presented for Dodson and Roberts to stand trial.
But he reminded the lawyers that evidence standards in preliminary hearings are not as high as those for trial.
Lawyers for Dodson and Roberts said the video and photo evidence didn't identify their clients.
Margarita Martinez-Baly, Dodson's lawyer, said it was "the weakest circumstantial evidence I have seen."
Ralph Torres, who represents Roberts, said nobody identified the assailants other than saying they were black.
And although witnesses identified Roberts' car, its light-blue color didn't match the gray, charcoal-gray or brown that they previously told police they had seen, Torres said.
But he did acknowledge Roberts was driving the same kind of car identified by witnesses when police stopped him.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, firstname.lastname@example.org or @beebenjamin on Twitter.
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