McLEAN, Va.- A jury on Tuesday failed to reach unanimous verdicts on the fates of two MS-13 street gang members convicted of murdering a police informant, effectively sparing them the death penalty.
Oscar Antonio Grande, 22, and Ismael Juarez Cisneros, 26, automatically will receive life in prison when they are formally sentenced in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
"While we believe the death penalty was appropriate punishment, we are confident that justice has been well-served in this case," U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said in a statement.
Both men were convicted in the July 2003 murder of Brenda Paz, who was four months pregnant when she died. Paz, 17, had been enrolled in the federal Witness Protection Program but left the program just weeks before she was killed.
Trial testimony indicated that Paz never truly severed her ties with the gang while in witness protection, calling on members to visit her even as she was moved by her handlers from Pennsylvania to Missouri to Minnesota.
Paz was stabbed to death one night after gang members met in a hotel room and voted to kill her for snitching on gang members to police.
Authorities said Cisneros had suggested the gang wait until Paz gave birth to her child before killing her, but still agreed to participate in her murder when the gang decided not to wait.
Two others were charged in Paz's death, but last month a jury acquitted them on all charges.
The trial shed light on the inner workings of MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha, a gang with roots in El Salvador that has become the target of a federal crackdown.