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Justin Fernandez, charged with abetting brother Ray Rivera in the homicide of Antonio Martinez, rejected a plea and chose to exercise his rights to a trial by jury during a plea conference on Tuesday (Jan. 17).

Relatives and friends of Martinez were present for the plea conference of Fernandez and would have spoken if the plea were accepted. Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office prosecutor Cosme Ripol requested the trial date be set “as soon as possible,” suggesting this spring.

Eighth Judicial District Judge Jeffery Shannon begged the question of whether or not Fernandez would be tried alongside Rivera, whose trial is set for this summer. Ripol will be filing a joinder motion in both Fernandez’s and Rivera’s cases by the end of this week. If the joinder is contested, a hearing will be held; otherwise, the two will be tried together. Shannon noted that Rivera was the one who pulled the trigger.

“Whatever it takes, I wanna get this done for the family and for Mr. Fernandez and Mr. Rivera,” Ripol said. “The show needs to get on the road.”

Fernandez has been charged with first-degree homicide, a capital felony; aggravated battery, a misdemeanor; conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and attempt to commit a felony, both fourth-degree felonies.

On Dec. 2, 2021, Fernandez allegedly assisted Rivera in the homicide of Martinez. According to Rivera, who turned himself in shortly after the incident, the homicide was accidental and involved drug and alcohol use. After getting into a fight with Martinez, Rivera went with Fernandez to retrieve a firearm.

A trial date has yet to be set for either of the brothers.

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