FARMINGTON — Despite a co-defendant testifying that Angel Abreu shot a home invasion victim in the back, attorneys are moving to present a self-defense argument in the Ogden man’s murder trial.
Proposed jury instructions from defense attorneys Kent Morgan and Daniel Mateen outlining self-defense elements to be considered have sparked a request by prosecutors to prohibit those arguments.
Abreu, 25, is accused of aggravated counts of murder, burglary and kidnapping in the shooting of 26-year-old Anthony Child in a Layton mobile home during an early morning drug robbery on Sept. 27, 2018.
After a co-defendant bound some of the home’s occupants with duct tape, Child emerged from a back bedroom. According to pretrial testimony, Child saw Abreu holding a .22 caliber rifle and retreated. During that retreat, Abreu allegedly shot Child twice in the back.
But in a court document filed April 6, the defense attorneys said the co-defendant was shot in the leg, “whether by another individual or it being self-inflicted.”
They claimed Abreu ran to help the co-defendant and “shot in the direction” he believed a shot had come from. Abreu “was in fear of his life” when he fired” and “believed he was legally justified” in trying to prevent the con-defendant and himself from being hit.
In a motion filed last week in 2nd District Court, deputy Davis County Attorney Richard Larsen urged Judge David Connors to bar the self-defense instructions.
Larsen wrote that state law bars a self-defense claim if the defendant was committing a felony or “was the aggressor in the use of force.”
The duct-taping of victims and pointing the rifle “was the initial and primary use of force” in the home, Larsen said. Even if Abreu believed someone was responding with force, the initial gun provocation still bars a self-defense claim, the prosecutor said.
Without a factual scenario to support a self-defense argument, using self-defense as an affirmative defense at trial should be barred, he said.
The prosecutor also pointed out that during an evidentiary hearing several months ago, Abreu answered “Correct” when asked if he shot someone during a home invasion.
Abreu’s attorneys have not yet responded to Larsen’s motion. In a brief hearing Tuesday, Connors set a June 2 hearing on the self-defense dispute.
Abreu does not yet have a trial date because of scheduling uncertainties that have disrupted court calendars during the pandemic.
Two others who participated in the home invasion, Brandon Hinojosa and Kevin Content, pleaded guilty to reduced charges and are serving prison sentences.
In February, Abreu sent a lengthy handwritten letter to Connors complaining about a prosecutor and asking to be released while awaiting trial or be given a lenient sentence upon conviction.
“There’s no such thing as being much of a father” to his 5-year-old son while he’s in jail, Abreu said. “His favorite question to ask me is when I’m getting out of jail so we can watch cartoons and eat pizza together.”
Abreu said he allowed drugs to consume him and his bad habits cost him his marriage and a career.
“There is nothing ‘gangster’ about this life,” he said. “All it amounts to is being dead or in a cell.”
He pleaded for leniency from the judge heading into trial. “I just need your mercy and the victim’s family’s forgiveness,” he said. “To do so I don’t want to spend the rest of my life or the majority of it in this cell. I’m asking you not to allow another life in this case to go to waste. I’m not a bad guy, Judge Connors, I’ve just made some bad choices.”
He complained that Larsen “refuses to offer any plea bargain” better than a sentence of 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Abreu asked that he be released to Red Barn Academy, a drug recovery program.
“I will even let you hold the death penalty over my head with zero tolerance,” Abreu wrote. “If I do absolutely anything wrong then Mr. Larsen himself can put the needle in my arm at Draper prison.”
An aggravated murder conviction could draw a death sentence or a life term without the possibility of parole.