San Francisco, CA – Hector Velez, 61, was found not guilty of murder and voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Ralph Ruiz, 59. The jury found Velez guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Velez, a local artist and web-design student at City College of San Francisco, was walking down Hyde Street, between Eddy and Turk streets, on September 21, 2008, at 10:30 a.m. Velez was approached and attacked by two men, including Ruiz.
The prosecution argued that the men fought over a disputed debt. Velez claimed that while he knew Ruiz, the attack was unprovoked. Ruiz had a history of drug and alcohol use and was under the influence of opiates, alcohol and cocaine at the time of the attack.
According to Velez, one of the attackers slammed his head with a heavy object. Velez saw one of the attackers reach into his pants pocket as if to retrieve a weapon. Velez then used a knife in self-defense, stabbing Ruiz once.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Velez’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Linda Colfax, said. “This is a case where a man was walking through the Tenderloin and was attacked by two men. Believing that his life was in danger, he pulled a knife in self-defense. The jury found that Hector Velez did not intend to kill anyone. He acted in response to an unprovoked attack.”
Colfax noted that in addition to being a student, Velez was also a computer programmer, a City election poll worker, and a devoted companion to his domestic partner.
Velez is scheduled to be sentenced on September 10, 2009.
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.