BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It’s a case that rocked the Baltimore region. Three young children were brutally murdered and two family members were accused and convicted of the crime. But now that conviction is being overturned.
Weijia Jiang explains why this case could be brought to trial again.
Adan Canela and Policarpio Espinoza Perez are serving life sentences for the vicious murders of three young relatives.
In May 2004, 8-year-old Lucero Espinoza, her brother 9-year-old Ricardo Espinoza, and their 10-year-old cousin Alexis Quezada were found in their Park Heights apartment severely beaten, their throats cut so deeply they were nearly decapitated.
But in a stunning move, the state’s highest court overturned the pair’s convictions Friday in a 4-3 decision.
“When things are withheld, you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back. That’s what the court found here,” said Brian Murphy, Canela’s appellate attorney.
The trial was one of the longest in Baltimore history. Jurors had sent nearly 30 notes to the trial judge. The Court of Appeals says the judge did not disclose six others.
Five of them were questions about key evidence; the other had to do with juror misconduct.
One legal expert calls the mistake, “Sloppy. In other words, there’s no excuse for it,” said Byron Warnken, University of Baltimore legal expert. “When you get the tag team match of error by the trial judge that was not harmless, the defendant gets a new trial.”
Several people who still live at the apartment complex say hearing about the ruling brings them right back to that chilling day seven years ago when the children’s bodies were discovered.
“It’s just bringing back memories, bringing everything back out,” said Kisha White, neighbor.
“I think it’s sad, very sad, the family has to re-live this moment,” said Lee Mawyer, neighbor.
If the State’s Attorney decides to re-try the case, obstacles are evident. Many family members who testified were here illegally and have since been deported back to Mexico.
A spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office says they are carefully reviewing the ruling and will decide whether to retry the case.
Circuit judge David Mitchell oversaw the trial. He has since retired.