LAWRENCE — A 21-year-old Lawrence man could spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted yesterday for the August 2007 shooting death of a Lawrence High School student on an outside basketball court — a crime that outraged the city.
A Newburyport Superior Court jury of nine women and five men deliberated for more than three hours and then found Alberto Cardoza Jr. of 158 Prospect St. guilty of second-degree murder.
Prosecutor A.J. Camelio presented testimony and evidence during the weeklong trial that Cardoza fired four shots at Jose Ramos Jr., one of them a fatal bullet to the head, during an argument between two groups of youths that escalated into violence.
Cardoza is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday in Newburyport Superior Court. He faces a mandatory life sentence with parole eligibility in 15 years. Prosecutors were seeking a first-degree murder charge.
Ramos, of Park Street, had recently turned 18 and was about to begin his senior year at Lawrence High. He worked as a night shift supervisor at the now defunct Fresh City in North Andover and was the father of a 1-year-old daughter.
The shooting occurred in front of friends on a basketball court at Scarito Park, a place named in honor of a doctor who delivered more than 20,000 babies.
"This was a crime that at the time shocked and galvanized the city," Lawrence police Chief John Romero said last night.
"It outraged the community because this killing took place in a public park where children played. And as a result, significant steps were taken in the park that will enhance security," the chief said.
Romero commended the work of Lawrence and state police detectives who worked on the murder investigation and Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office for prosecuting the case.
Carlos Martinez, of 393 Chestnut St. in Lawrence, who was 17 at the time, was indicted by a grand jury in February 2008 on first-degree murder charges. Nelson Rivera Jr., 18 at the time, of 69 Newbury St. in Lawrence, was indicted on a charge of being an accessory after the fact. Both are awaiting trials.
"The victim in this case was a hardworking father who was trying to support his family when his life was cut short," Romero said.
"Hopefully, the family can take some solace in knowing that one of the persons responsible for his death has been brought to justice and convicted and the cases of two others continue in the court system," the chief said.
Ramos and some friends were waiting to play basketball at Scarito Park when another group walked by and the groups exchanged words.
The second group left the area but returned a few minutes later. One of them, identified by investigators as Martinez, pulled a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol from the waistband of his pants as the argument between the two groups got out of hand.
Witnesses said Cardoza grabbed the gun from Martinez and then shot Ramos, who refused to drop a baseball bat he was holding.
"It was an argument that (Cardoza) settled with a bullet," prosecutor Camelio told the jury in his opening argument.
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