In Ogden, lawyers tussle over photographs and witnesses ahead of murder trial

Friday , August 04, 2017 - 5:08 PM

NADIA PFLAUM, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — “Meticuloso” was the word of the day in 2nd District Judge Joseph Bean’s courtroom. 

That is the Spanish translation for “scrupulous,” a term repeated by defense attorney Scott C. Williams to describe the level of attention the judge ought to use in weighing the reliability of the prosecution’s proposed evidence against his client.

The defendant, Gutberto Heras-Corrales, listened to the proceedings with headphones as two Spanish-speaking interpreters took turns translating in real time. 

Heras-Corrales is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend, 26-year-old Noemi Rodriguez, on Christmas 2008. Prosecutors say Heras-Corrales killed Rodriguez because she broke up with him, then he fled to Mexico. He was extradited from the state of Sinaloa in January 2013 to face the murder charge. 

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He is also facing arson charges in Davis County for allegedly burning down Rodriguez’s mobile home on December 20, 2008, five days before her death. State’s attorneys Dee Smith and Gage Arnold argued Friday that the details of the arson should be admitted at trial, and the jury should hear descriptions of domestic violence and threatening statements allegedly made by Heras-Corrales in the days leading up to Rodriguez’s murder.

“The evidence aids in establishing the context of the parties’ escalating animosity which aids in establishing motive and intent,” the state argued in court documents.

Defense attorneys Williams and Cara Tangaro argued that overheard statements are hearsay, and that “prior bad acts” like an alleged arson are usually inadmissible. They requested an evidentiary hearing so that the judge can hear from the contested witnesses and “root out what ought not to be presented to the jury at trial.” 

Bean said he would issue a ruling in a week or two, but cautioned that a fair trial doesn’t require a series of “mini-trials” before the real thing. 

The judge also threw out one of the prosecution’s photographs out of concern that it would be prejudicial to the defendant. The photo showed the bloodied snow where Rodriguez’s frozen body was discovered by the driver of a snowplow clearing roads in the Huntsville Cemetery.

Arnold had argued that “jurors know that blood is red.”

Bean told prosecutors that they can use a black-and-white version of the photo. He also decided to allow a photo from the autopsy of Rodriguez, showing the fatal wound to her throat. 

Heras-Corrales’ trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 30. 

Reporter @NadiaPflaum can be reached at npflaum@standard.net or 801-625-4252.

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