OGDEN -- Claiming judicial error, Riqo Perea's lawyers have filed a motion seeking a new trial.
Perea is currently serving life without parole in Utah State Prison for an Aug. 5, 2007, gang-related double homicide at a wedding party. He was convicted March 16 by a 2nd District Court jury after a five-day trial.
Killed were Sabrina Prieto, 22, and Resendo Nava Nevarez, 29. Prosecutors originally intended to seek the death penalty but took that option off the table shortly before the trial started. Perea, now 22, was 19 at the time of the slayings.
The 38-page motion claims Judge Ernie Jones erred in blocking defense forensic specialist James Gaskill from presenting photos and a video supporting his theory that shots fired that night could not have come from Perea's vehicle.
Those rulings -- made moments before Gaskill, a former Weber State University professor, took the stand -- "emasculated the entire defense case," according to the motion filed last week.
The motion also claims the judge's rulings on some evidence hampered presentation of the theory that Perea falsely confessed to the crime to protect a fellow gang member who actually committed the crimes.
If a new trial is ruled out, public defender Randy Richards asked that Perea's sentence be reconsidered.
Despite the fact the shots came in a 10-second burst, the motion also argues that the shootings should not have been regarded as a single incident, arguing prosecutors had conceded that point.
"During the sentencing phase of the trial, the prosecution made statements that emphasized that defendant had pulled the trigger ten separate times, committing ten separate volitional acts, and stated that this was not a single criminal episode," the motion reads.
The fact of a single criminal episode was the only aggravating factor that qualified Perea for the aggravated murder charges on which he was convicted, Richards argues.
He asked that the "verdict be reversed and an entry of a conviction for first-degree murder charges instead of aggravated murder charges" be made.
The sentence would then be 20 years to life instead of life without parole, according to the motion.
Jones in sentencing Perea on May 27 emphasized strongly Perea's current claim of innocence as influencing his decision against allowing the possibility of parole.
"I don't know how we rehabilitate when a defendant says he didn't do it," Jones said in announcing sentence. "I don't know how you get there when he says he didn't do anything wrong."