Prosecution seeks to protect confession in Guevara murder caseState files 42-page brief challenging local judge’s ruling.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
State prosecutors say an accused killer’s tossed-out confession should be reinstated in the case of a slain Mitchell girl.
The confession is that of Maricela Diaz, who is accused of killing 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara, of Mitchell, in November 2009.
First Circuit Judge Tim Bjorkman has excluded statements Diaz made to police after her arrest on Nov. 11, 2009. Earlier this month, the South Dakota Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of Bjorkman’s ruling.
Bjorkman found Diaz’s statements to police were voluntary, but he ruled she did not waive her Miranda rights prior to being questioned and that the importance of her Miranda rights was downplayed by investigating officers.
In a new 42-page brief, prosecutors ask the Supreme Court to reverse Bjorkman’s decision to suppress Diaz’s statements to police.
Diaz was advised of her Miranda rights twice in English and once in Spanish, and was not confused about her rights and did not misunderstand why the officers were speaking with her, the brief says.
“There were no repeated attempts by law enforcement to mislead Diaz or minimize her rights, particularly when she was advised of her rights in Spanish,” the brief says.
While most of Diaz’s interrogation was recorded, her confession was not. A new audio/video system that had recently been installed at the Mitchell Police Division shut off after four continuous hours, as it was programmed to do, and went unnoticed by interrogators for approximately 96 minutes, according to various court documents.
“Ultimately, Diaz confessed to taking part in Jasmine’s murder — the planning, stabbing and burning of Jasmine in her car ” the brief . Diaz is accused of luring Guevara to a rural area and then stabbing her and leaving her in the trunk of a burning vehicle. 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.
Diaz cannot be sentenced to death because of her age at the time of the crime. A bill proposed in the South Dakota Legislature earlier this month would change the sentence for first-degree murder for juvenile offenders from mandatory life in prison to a maximum of life in prison, to conform to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Alexander Salgado pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in August 2010 in connection with Guevara’s death. He is now serving a life sentence at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for Salgado.
According to the brief, Diaz dropped out of high school in Fort Wayne, Ind., and fled to South Dakota with Salgado.
In a signed plea agreement, Salgado admitted to participating in the murder and to holding Guevara’s head while Diaz cut into her neck.
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. According to the brief, Diaz told investigators the murder never would have happened if Diaz had not told Salgado that she wanted to hurt Guevara.
“But, when one is angry, one says a lot of things,” Diaz told investigators, the brief says.
Diaz’s court-appointed attorneys Doug Dailey and Chris Nipe, both of Mitchell, have until mid-March to file their brief.