A Fresno man was recently sentenced to 25 years to life after having been convicted of murder in a 2011 shooting. Robert Anthony Garcia, 23, was convicted in July of fatally shooting Leonard Vivian, 25, during an attempted robbery at a Fresno motel in 2011. Garcia’s family had written letters to the trial judge seeking mercy in sentencing, but Fresno Superior Court Judge Wayne Ellison informed those present at the sentencing hearing that he was bound by having to impose the mandatory sentence of 25 years to life that comes with a first-degree murder conviction.
“You made some decisions in your life that I cannot change,” Ellison told Garcia. “You will have to live with those consequences.”
According to prosecutors, Vivian was shot and killed when Patterson and an accomplice, Brandon Patterson, were attempting to rob him at a Fresno motel after they had delivered $100 of methamphetamine bought for Vivian by a female friend. It was alleged that the two men believed Vivian had thousands of dollars in cash and in gold and silver coins. A surveillance camera showed Garcia and Patterson running from the motel eight minutes after going inside Vivian’s room. Neither Garcia or Patterson were charged with robbery or attempted robbery in the case.
Patterson’s criminal defense attorney said the jurors got the verdict wrong because they had to conclude that there was evidence of an attempted robbery in order to find that a murder was committed. No evidence was presented at trial showing that an attempted robbery took place or that either Garcia or Patterson were aware Vivian had any valuables. Both attorneys for the defendants did acknowledge that the surveillance camera footage did not help their clients in the case.
According to the Fresno Bee, during the sentencing hearing, Garcia’s attorney described the killing as “a tragic case of three young men messing around with drugs and wanting money.”
It was never made clear which of the defendants actually shot Vivian. Neither Garcia nor Patterson were convicted of using a gun since the gun used in the shooting was never found. Moreover, neither of the defendants ever ended up acquiring the valuables in Vivian’s possession, which investigators discovered had been stolen by Vivian when he burglarized a home not long before the shooting at the motel that resulted in his death.