State Supreme Court will decide fate of Diaz confession in Guevara deathThe South Dakota Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a judge’s decision to toss out an accused murderer’s confession.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — The South Dakota Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a judge’s decision to toss out an accused murderer’s confession.
The confession is from Maricela Diaz, who is accused of killing 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara, of Mitchell, in November 2009.
In an order filed Dec. 14, the Supreme Court grants state prosecutors’ request to appeal a circuit court ruling. That ruling, by Judge Tim Bjorkman , bars the prosecutors from using any statements Diaz made to police after her arrest on Nov. 11, 2009. Diaz was 15 at the time of her alleged involvement in the crime and is now 18 and being tried as an adult.
Bjorkman found Diaz had not waived her Miranda rights prior to being questioned and that the importance of her Miranda rights had been downplayed by investigators. The ruling was issued Aug. 28, just weeks before the case was scheduled to go to trial.
Both the prosecution and defense will file briefs on the appeal, after which the Supreme Court will render a decision.
All other proceedings in the case will be put on hold until the appeal is decided.
Alexander Salgado pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in August 2010 in connection with Guevara’s death and is now serving a life sentence at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for Salgado.
Diaz is accused of luring Guevara to a rural area and then stabbing her and leaving her in the trunk of a burning vehicle. In a signed plea agreement, Salgado admitted to participating in the murder and to holding Guevara’s head while Diaz cut into her neck.
After being moved from juvenile court to adult court, Diaz was indicted on Aug. 5, 2011, on six charges related to the crime, including first-degree murder.
Investigators said Diaz, who has a child with Salgado, was jealous of a developing relationship between Salgado and Guevara. Salgado has said he will not testify against Diaz and threatened violence if brought to court.
Diaz could face life in prison if convicted but, because of her age at the time of the crime, cannot be sentenced to death.