OGDEN — A judge has allowed further argument in the case of a former Ogden man trying to appeal his 2017 murder conviction.
Efforts to win an appeal will continue for Gutberto Heras-Corrales, 43, the judge ruled in an order filed Monday in Ogden’s 2nd District Court.
Heras-Corrales was charged with murder in August 2009 several months after the body of Noemi Rodriguez was found by a snowplow driver on Dec. 26, 2008, near the Huntsville Cemetery. A jury later found him guilty in November 2017, and in early January 2018 he was sentenced to a term of 15 years to life in prison.
On June 19, Heras-Corrales was present in court as his attorney, Nathan Carroll, and prosecutors met for the first argument hearing regarding the possibility of an appeal.
Carroll argued that Heras-Corrales told his then-attorney Cara Tangaro that he wanted to appeal his conviction, but Tangaro told him there was no basis for appeal. Carroll said that Heras-Corrales was reportedly under the impression that Tangaro would file an appeal on his behalf anyway, but that never happened.
Typically, defendants have 30 days to appeal their case after sentencing. Heras-Corrales filed an appeal in January 2019, nearly a year to the day that he was sent to prison.
The state, who was represented by Deputy Davis County Attorney Jeffrey Thomson, argued earlier this month that Heras-Corrales had waived his right to an appeal when he entered in to a plea agreement to resolve a first-degree felony aggravated arson case in Davis County just weeks after being sentenced to prison in the Ogden case. Heras-Corrales was charged with aggravated arson in a Davis County district court after he burned down Rodriguez’s Layton home while no one was there. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of simple assault.
In the order filed Monday, Judge Joseph Bean denied prosecutors’ motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the district court did not have jurisdiction to handle the appeal. However, the state has the right to refile that same motion pending the outcome of the next evidence hearing.
For the next evidence hearing, Bean ruled that the burden of proof will be upon the defense pursuant to case law cited during the June 19 hearing.
One such point mentioned by Bean in his order is a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Garza v. Idaho. In Garza, the court ruled that one’s 6th Amendment rights can be applied regardless of whether or not the defendant had signed a waiver for their right to appeal.
As of Wednesday evening, it was not immediately clear what date Heras-Corrales’ next hearing will take place. He is currently in the custody of the Utah State Prison while serving his prison term.