The Washington State Court of Appeals overturned a murder conviction on Nov. 6 against a man convicted for a 2019 murder in Auburn.
A King County Superior Court jury had convicted Abbas Zghair of second-degree murder in October 2021 for the March 2019 fatal shooting of Silvano Ruiz-Perez, of Kent, in Auburn. Attorneys for Zghair appealed the case in December 2021.
A passerby discovered Ruiz-Perez dead in a gravel field at the site of an old drive-in theater on March 24, 2019, and called police. Ruiz-Perez died as a result of a “gaping” shotgun wound to his left forearm, estimated to have been fired from within 3 feet of him. Media reports about the 2019 case listed Auburn and Kent as hometowns for Zghair.
In the Washington State Court of Appeals’s analysis of the case, the court determined that the evidence to support Zghair’s conviction either as a principal or accomplice to murder served as insufficient — reversing and remanding the case to the King County Superior Court for dismissal of Zghair’s conviction.
To prove that Zghair was the principal in the shooting, not only did the state have to prove that the shooting was intentional, the state had to establish that Zghair was the person who shot Ruiz-Perez, according to the Washington State Court of Appeals’s unpublished opinion regarding his case.
“While the State argued in closing that Zghair ‘very well could have been the human being that pointed that shotgun,’ it never presented evidence that supports a reasonable inference that Zghair was the shooter,” the Court of Appeals’s opinion stated.
No evidence permitted an inference connecting Zghair to the act of shooting, nor to the shotgun, with no physical evidence as a result of the weapon never having been found, the opinion stated. There was also no evidence that Zghair had a motive to shoot Ruiz-Perez as the two were “strangers” who had never met, according to documents.
There was circumstantial evidence that Zghair was present at the scene of the crime, with his phone location data establishing his phone was in the vehicle connected to the shooting, with birdshot and blood recovered from the car. However, the Court of Appeals agreed with Zghair’s appeal that his “mere presence” at the scene could not establish his liability as an accomplice.
“There is … no evidence from which to infer that he was the person who shot Ruiz-Perez. No rational juror could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that … Zghair knew of a plan to shoot Ruiz-Perez … nor could a rational juror conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Zghair had information that would lead a reasonable person in his situation to believe he was assisting in the planning or commission of the crime charged,” the opinion stated.
The Auburn Police Department declined to comment regarding the overturning of Zghair’s conviction.
Representatives of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to request for comment.