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Third Trial In Children’s 2004 Slayings

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore prosecutors said Thursday they will pursue a third trial for two illegal immigrants from Mexico accused in the 2004 deaths of three young relatives.

Policarpio Espinoza Perez and Adan Canela are serving life sentences in the slayings, but successfully appealed convictions in their 2006 retrial, arguing that the judge failed to properly disclose several jury notes. Their first trial ended in a hung jury.

The Court of Appeals found last month that the state failed to prove that the error did not influence the verdict. Judge Clayton Greene Jr. wrote for the majority that the judge’s error “deprived counsel of the opportunity to have input” into the court’s response to the jury. Three dissenting judges noted defense attorneys saw the judge’s error and didn’t object.

Lucero Espinoza, 8; her 9-year-old brother, Ricardo Espinoza; and their 10-year-old male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, were found with their throats slashed in a northwest Baltimore apartment.

There have been questions about the case being difficult to prosecute after so long, but State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein said in a statement that the Court of Appeals decision was focused on the trial judge’s error, not evidence.

“The ruling had nothing to do with the evidence,” Bernstein said in a statement Thursday. “Therefore we will try this case
again.”

The amount of time that has passed since the last trial ended presents challenges for both sides, according to attorney Adam Sean Cohen, who represented Canela in the first two trials with James Rhodes. It is not yet clear if they will represent Canela at a third trial, he said.

Victor Espinoza, Canela’s father and Perez’ brother, was killed last year in Vera Cruz, Mexico, and his wife, Guadalupe, has been charged. Other relatives have been deported. Transcripts could be read at a new trial, but they couldn’t be cross-examined about events since the second trial, Cohen said.

“There are transcripts, but it doesn’t account for any new questions,” he said.

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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