But at 10 p.m., Nguyen was struck, fell to the ground and fractured his skull in the sidewalk near the Stadium Projects, a low-income housing development near Lawrence High School. Lopez was convicted assaulting Nguyen, which led to his death, and then robbing him after he fell to the ground.
Nguyen died the following day at Tufts Medical Center. During the trial, Dr. Marie Cannon, a state medical examiner, testified that Nguyen suffered a 5-inch skull fracture. She said his cause of death was blunt force head trauma that led to fatal brain bleeding.
In Lopez’s defense, his attorney called Dr. William Stewart, an expert witness in emergency room medicine. Stewart said Nguyen suffered from liver cirrhosis and had a portion of his stomach removed due to gastric cancer. The conditions resulted in blood clotting problems and bone frailty, Stewart said.
The trial was marked by prosecution witnesses from Lawrence who said they couldn’t remember or didn’t want to testify about what happened on July 30, 2009. Witness Wainer Caba, 20, of Lawrence, flat out admitted on the stand he didn’t want to testify.
Before the trial started, a Methuen man was arrested for calling Caba a “chota,” which means rat or snitch in Spanish, at the Salem courthouse. Cesar Jimenez, 33, was arrested and charged with intimidating a witness. Jimenez’s girlfriend is Lopez’s mother.
At sentencing yesterday, prosecutor James Gubitose asked Judge David Lowy to sentence Lopez to life in prison, which he could for the robbery conviction, and 15 to 20 years in prison on the involuntary manslaughter charge. Gubitose called the crimes “deliberate, cowardly and planned.”
Defense attorney Aviva Jeruchim, however, asked Lowy to consider Lopez’s age at the time of the crime, 21, and his “very nominal” criminal record up until then. She asked for a 4 to 6 year prison sentence on the manslaughter charge and probation on the unarmed robbery charge.