SALT LAKE CITY — A former Ogden man found guilty of murder in connection with a 2015 shooting had his conviction upheld by the Utah Supreme Court.
The appeal of 23-year-old Luciano Gabriel Silva was struck down in a supreme court opinion made public Tuesday. In October 2016, a jury found Silva guilty of four charges: one count of murder, a first-degree felony; two counts of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and possession of a weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.
Silva was convicted of killing 25-year-old Horacio Sanchez, whose body was found on the Riverdale Parkway Trail in September 2015. Silva was sentenced to a term of 16 years to life in a Utah state prison.
Sanchez died from one gunshot wound to the back of his head, according to police.
The court’s opinion indicates Silva went to his home that day to find his roommate with a friend, identified as Sanchez. Silva offered to buy methamphetamine, and later he and Sanchez left the home to pick up the drugs. Silva returned home about 15 minutes later alone and with no meth, telling his roommate that Sanchez had left him during their walk.
The next day, Sept. 13, 2015, Sanchez’s body was discovered.
Silva was arrested shortly after the discovery of the body, and he told police he shot Sanchez as a matter of self-defense. Silva claimed that once Sanchez knew he had a gun, Sanchez took the gun and attempted to rob him. The shot was fired during a struggle, Silva said.
Silva appealed the conviction on two arguments. First, Silva argued that the court should have allowed him to have an option of perfect or imperfect self-defense, concepts that would have allowed the possibility of Silva to be convicted of a lesser manslaughter charge rather than murder.
The trial court would not allow this argument because they claimed he was “involved with two felonies at the time of the homicide,” the opinion says. The fact that the two men were looking for meth and Silva’s possession of a firearm were two felonies being referred to in the case. Nonetheless, Silva argued he should be allowed to argue for perfect or imperfect self-defense.
The court rejected this argument, saying the claims were unsubstantiated.
Second, Silva argued that he should have been awarded a mistrial after a prosecutor gave Silva a fake gun during the trial and asked him to demonstrate how close he was to Sanchez when he fired the gun.
However, while the court did find that aspects of the demonstration were “troubling,” it ruled that the actions of the prosecutor were not enough to deem a mistrial necessary. The opinion goes on to caution prosecutors of doing similar demonstrations at future trials, saying, “such a demonstration certainly has the potential to run afoul of that rule and to trigger a mistrial.”
“We advise future attorneys, however, to proceed cautiously when considering the propriety of a demonstration like the one here,” the opinion said.
In February, Silva pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony charge of aggravated assault of a prisoner while in custody at the Utah State Prison. He was sentenced to a term of one to 15 years in prison, which was ordered to run consecutively with the time he’s currently serving, meaning the prison time will be added to the sentence he’s already serving.
Months later in April, Silva was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a first-degree felony. The case is ongoing and he has yet to enter a plea in the matter.
Silva will have a parole hearing scheduled in 2031, according to online records.