Arturo Herrera was sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison Dec. 6 after being convicted for murdering his younger brother last year in Lompoc, but the brothers' family is still maintaining Arturo's innocence and arguing that the "real killer is out there."
In September, following several weeks of trial testimony, the jury found Arturo Herrera, 32, guilty of murdering his younger brother Enrique Herrera, 28. They also found the special weapon allegation to commit the crime was true, despite the weapon never being found.
During the sentencing, Herrera's family members collectively condemned Senior Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jebens for making up "outlandish stories for his own selfish cause to win a case," and the court's alleged failure to consider the omitted evidence that suggested another person entered the family's home on July 4, 2016, and killed Enrique.
All letters characterized both brothers as upstanding military veterans, and also begged Judge Gustavo Lavayen to consider a retrial.
Arturo's older brother, Daniel Herrera, spoke first. He told the court of his childhood memories, spending time with both Enrique and Arturo, joining the U.S. Marine Corps and serving the country together, before the tragedy occurred.
"The Sixth Amendment states the mantra of innocence until proven guilty, something we've all heard numerous times before," he said. "I simply can't understand how anyone could reasonably come to the conclusion that the prosecution ever met the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard."
Daniel added, "Arturo, the most heroic and decorated of all of us is, at the very least, entitled to a fair trial -- one that upholds the idea of innocence until proven guilty."
Arturo's sister also read several letters to the court -- all maintaining his innocence -- and described how both he and Enrique loved each other as brothers, and set examples of strength, valor and loyalty to their family members.
"We deserve fairness and assurance of our safety, considering the fact that the person who really committed the crime isn't sitting here," she added. "There's no way [Arturo] could've done something like this."
Arturo's mother, Martha Herrera, who did not miss a single day of court proceedings over a span of 15 months, was the last to give her final remarks to the public, during which she lambasted Jebens and accused police of not helping the family throughout their investigation, "because they wanted my son's head on a silver platter from his own mother."
Even with statements from others who knew who the "real killer" was, the "court did nothing about it -- and [the killer] continues to have his freedom while I sit here and see that you're taking my child away," she said, weeping.
Martha Herrera also aimed her remarks at the media, claiming they slander victims with their "poisoned pens" and "set the stage for yet another innocent person to be tried and convicted without a fair trial."
After her statements, Jebens and Arturo's attorney, Sydney Bennett, argued over whether or not Arturo's conviction rose to the level of probation versus prison time.
Bennett pointed out that "it was an unusual case all around," and that, while the jury found the weapon allegation to be true, the weapon was never recovered. Thus, "nobody still knows what actually happened in the crime," she claimed.
Jebens argued the weapon wasn't recovered because it was well-hidden, and that prison time was warranted.
"We do know a weapon was used; there's no other way Mr. Herrera could've done this. I don't believe there's enough evidence to overcome the presumption [Herrera] shouldn't be sentenced to prison," Jebens pointed out, to which the judge agreed.
The defendant has 60 days to file a notice of appeal with the court.