MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – A jury last month convicted David Cordero-Hernandez of murder, but the presiding judge is considering a request to have the conviction reversed.
Judge Edward McDermott, a retired juror who presided over the trial because the full-time judge was suspended at the time, heard Tuesday arguments over the defense’s request to overturn the jury verdict and acquit Cordero-Hernandez or order a new process. He adjourned the defendant’s sentencing hearing and said he would consider the defense’s request.
Defense attorney Dom Soto argued in a hearing Tuesday that the evidence overwhelmingly supports his client’s innocence. He said co-defendant Marcos Oslan and two women cleared Cordero-Hernandez.
“I don’t know what happened in the jury room,” she told the judge. “But I think you believed the jury followed the law, and they didn’t.”
Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Walsh argued that Soto made the same arguments when she dismissed her case and asked the judge to dismiss the indictment.
“Nothing has changed from the rested defense to date,” he said.
The jury found Cordero-Hernandez, 35, guilty of murder in the December 2019 shooting, stabbing and beating of Tracie Dennis. Prosecutors said the killing stemmed from a dispute over money and that while Oslan fired the shots , Cordero-Hernandez helped carry it through.
Police discovered the body buried in Cordero-Hernandez’s backyard, and five days after the killing, authorities in Jacksonville, Florida tracked him down along with Oslan and two women. Prosecutors argued that the defendant’s escape was proof of his guilt. Walsh also argued that the 140-pound Oslan would have needed help to subdue the 6-foot tall victim.
“There is absolutely no way Marcos Oslan did this by himself,” he said
Defense lawyers routinely ask judges to overturn verdicts. Typically, judges dismiss such requests quickly. In this case, however, McDermott scheduled a hearing and asked the prosecutor pointed questions about the evidence. After the jury returned its verdict, the judge drew the ire of the district attorney’s office when he let the defendant go free on bail.
Soto told FOX10 News that he is encouraged by these developments.
“It happened at his house, at David’s house,” she said outside the courtroom. “Other than that, there’s nothing – there’s nothing – there’s nothing there, there. I mean, you know, where’s the beef?
In court, Soto argued that prosecutors failed to present enough evidence. The only person present during the murder who was tested was the defendant himself. The jury heard statements Oslan and the two women made to police, and Soto noted that neither of them implicated his client.
In addition, Soto said, another witness was present whom police never questioned. Police said they were unable to locate him. Soto later found the man, but said that when the trial came, that witness was in federal custody and had been “taken away” to federal prison.
McDermott rejected a charge of abuse of a corpse during the trial but allowed the murder charge to go to the jury. Soto said the judge should have dismissed both charges.
“With all due respect, it was a mistake to let this go to the jury,” Soto said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Walsh acknowledged that the witness statements did not implicate Cordero-Hernandez, but the prosecutor disputed Soto’s characterization that they “cleared” the defendant. He urged the judge to respect the jury’s verdict, which he noted the jurors arrived after just an hour and a half of deliberation. He said the jury could draw conclusions from the defendant’s contradictory testimony.
“The defendant told three different stories from just that location about what he heard and saw,” he said. “They were all different from what he initially told the police.”
McDermott asked Walsh if prosecutors had attempted to cut a deal with Oslan in exchange for his testimony. He said they did, but he refused because he was afraid of his family. The judge asked why prosecutors didn’t force Oslan to testify.
“Don’t you think the jury would have liked to hear his testimony?” she asked.
Walsh replied that from past experience, it is likely Oslan would not have said anything if called to the stand and that the testimony would not have been “helpful”.
The judge also asked why the police didn’t make an effort to find the fifth witness. He pointed to testimony from a police detective who drove past the man’s home but that there were no cars in the residence.
“Didn’t you bother to go up and knock on the door?” the judge asked.
Walsh replied: “We don’t always get as many witnesses as we want in these cases. We went with the evidence we had, which was pretty strong.
Soto told FOX10 News that judges have a duty to step in if prosecutors fail to meet their burden. He said the facts of this “horrific murder” were hard to face: a victim who was bound, stabbed seven times and shot.
“The problem with a murder case is you have these awful photos and you have these awful facts. And you have a young man who was shot down in the prime of his life,” she said. “And that’s, you know, it’s hard to top that kind of emotional impact when they keep presenting these images of these terrible things that have happened to this young man.”
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