Sacto 9-1-1
September 6, 2011
Lawyers give opening statements in prison cell-killing trial

A prosecutor said today that a prison inmate was able to "trick" his victim into becoming his cellmate so he could avenge the murder of his brother.

Inmate Robert Grajeda Canchola had befriended Julian Barajas on the yard at California State Prison, Sacramento, seven years ago to set him up for the Sept. 20, 2004, torture killing in the cell they shared, Deputy District Attorney Roxanne Ball said.

"The evidence will show this was a killing for revenge," Ball told the Sacramento Superior Court jury.

She said Canchola, now 38, who is being tried under his prison name of Robert Rodriguez, arranged for a cell switch to get back at Barajas for the 1993 murder of Antonio Canchola, the defendant's younger brother.

Barajas, who was 27 when he died, was convicted in the 1997 shooting death of Antonio Canchola, 16, at a party in Montebello, a Los Angeles suburb.

In his opening statement, Canchola's lawyer, Russell W. Miller, said the trial will be about why Canchola strangled Barajas.

Miller said state correctional officer Celso P. Zamudio selected Barajas to be Canchola's cellmate. Miller also said his client suffered 10 stab wounds and that the evidence in trial will show there was a struggle between the two.

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