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Khoshnaw guilty in Forest Grove murder

Jury convicts Portland man in 2011 shooting death of Luis Guzman


Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: BETTY CAMPBELL - Defendant Niaz Khoshnaw (center), accused in the 2011 shooting death of Luis Guzman in Forest Grove, listens to proceedings in Washington County Circuit Court Thursday afternoon. Attorneys for both sides presented closing arguments and sent the case to the jury. A Washington County jury unanimously found Portland resident Niaz Khoshnaw guilty of shooting Luis Guzman to death outside Guzman's B Street home in Forest Grove nearly three years ago.

In addition to the murder verdict, which came in just before 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, the jury of six women and six men also found Khoshnaw guilty of tampering with a witness.

Khoshnaw sat stoic in the courtroom, making eye contact with jurors as they were individually polled on their verdict. His attorneys wiped tears away. At the close of the trial, Khoshnaw was put back into chains and led to the jail to await his Nov. 10 sentencing.

His accomplice, Daniel Serna, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in September and testified against Khoshnaw for a lesser sentence.

Prior to closing the record, Washington County Circuit Judge Suzanne Upton spoke to the mothers of both Guzman and Khoshnaw, informing them that she would be happy to hear from them or any other family members on the day of sentencing, although they are not required to speak.

Khoshnaw, 21, was accused in the Nov. 14, 2011, shooting death of Guzman.

Last Thursday, attorneys for both sides presented closing arguments in the case, in which Khoshnaw — a Kurdish immigrant who belonged to the Norteño gang — was charged with killing Guzman, a member of the rival Sureño gang.

Khoshnaw, who admitted to jurors he had dealt drugs as part of his gang involvement, claimed that when he went to Guzman's residence to collect drug money, Guzman became aggressive. He said Guzman was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time and that he shot Guzman in self-defense after Guzman charged at him.

Guzman's mother wept softly in the gallery of the courtroom. Later, Khoshnaw's mother cried while rocking and singing, a veil draped about her head.

The state hinged its case on eyewitness accounts from Serna and from Andrew Rodriguez Hernandez, who was 15 at the time of the shooting.

Rodriguez Hernandez came forward after being wracked with guilt and sleepless nights, he said, telling the court he wanted to change his life by telling the truth.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Bracken McKey painted Khoshnaw as someone the jury couldn't count on to be forthright. "The defendant is a pathological liar," he said Thursday. "Everything he told you yesterday (while testifying in his own defense) that was of substance was a lie."

Prosecutors insisted the crime was retribution for an incident three months earlier in which Guzman pulled a gun on Serna and Khoshnaw. They added that Khoshnaw had admitted the crime to his girlfriend, and posted on Facebook he had killed Guzman.

McKey urged jurors not to believe Khoshnaw's self-defense story, saying that if they did, "Folks, this is an acquittal. This is a not-guilty, because that is a completely reasonable use of force if you believe him."

Khoshnaw's lawyer, Edie Rogoway, described Khoshnaw's world as one of drug-dealing and guns. She said the prosecution team had decided to make the evidence fit the story they wanted jurors to believe — that the crime was gang-related and that Khoshnaw had earned a special tattoo known as a Huelga bird as a reward for killing Guzman.

The defendant, who has been in the Washington County Jail since his arrest in March 2012, claimed he earned the tattoo for standing in front of Serna when Guzman pulled the gun on them.

Rogoway said her client had no motive to murder Guzman. She acknowleged Khoshnaw's postings on social media were ill-advised, but accused prosecutors of picking and choosing certain Facebook posts in an attempt to convince jurors Khoshnaw was a bad person.

As Guzman's mother wept in the courtroom, comforted by family members, Deputy District Attorney John Gerhard said the defense was "trying to pull on your heart strings just like Mr. Khoshnaw tried to manipulate you with his lies." Turning toward the defense table, Gerhard described the defendant as a sociopath.

"The defendant intentionally caused the death of Luis Guzman. He threatened to kill Andrew [Rodriguez Hernandez] if he snitched. He plotted to kill Mr. Rodriguez Hernandez from the jail. Hold this defendant accountable."

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