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New judge takes over teen murder case

Murder defendant Maricela Diaz leaves court in August 2011. (Republic file photo)

A new judge is presiding over a Hanson County murder case, and a new trial date has been set.

Judge Timothy Bjorkman was felony murder regarding allegations appointed to the case of Maricela Diaz.

Diaz is accused of masterminding the murder of Mitchell teenager Jasmine Guevara in November 2009.

Diaz is charged with first-degree murder; first-degree of arson; first-degree arson; and first-degree felony murder regarding allegations of kidnapping, according to court documents.

In September, Doug Dailey, one of the attorneys for Diaz, requested Judge Sean O'Brien be disqualified from the case because he presided over Diaz's juvenile case regarding the murder, before it was moved to adult court.

Dailey argued since the case was moved from juvenile to adult court and Diaz was charged with new charges, O'Brien no longer had jurisdiction and Diaz had not waived her rights to recusal of the judge.

O'Brien acknowledged in a September letter that he received Dailey's request and denied it. However, presiding circuit Judge Steven Jensen signed an appointment order placing Bjorkman on the case.

In an October hearing, Bjorkman met with Hanson County State's Attorney James Davies, Assistant Attorney General Robert Mayer and one of Diaz's attorneys, Chris Nipe, to discuss scheduling and deadlines.

All parties agreed on a three-week trial set to begin June 12. Between Feb. 3, 2012, and June 11, 2012, the state and defense will provide information including juror questionnaires, motion for change of venue, change of plea and jury instructions.