Defense and prosecution attorneys hammered out issues related to the conduct of the June capital murder trial of Luis Aguirre during a motions hearing Friday.
Aguirre is accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Tanya Maldonado, 18, and their 15-month-old son, Juan, in 2009. The victims’ bodies were found that October by a hunter in a shallow grave in Ogden.
At the hearing, Aguirre’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Wicks, put forth several motions before Judge Meryl Wilson, including a request for suppression of evidence gathered from Aguirre’s Ogden storage unit in October and November 2009. Wilson denied that motion.
Riley County officers executed a search warrant at the unit following an interview with Aguirre in Austin, Texas, after the bodies of both victims were found.
During the Oct. 29 search, officers gathered 57 items from the unit, including various pieces of trace evidence and several items of clothing believed to be Maldonado’s or Juan’s.
Wicks argued that although officers stated on their search warrant they were looking for clothing of both Maldonado and her son, officers grabbed any item of clothing from the storage unit that they suspected to be theirs, with no regard for whether the items actually belonged to Maldonado.
He argued that the evidence taken from the unit should be thrown out because officers exceeded the scope of the warrant. He further argued that evidence from the subsequent November search, which was based on the October search, should also be disregarded.
Assistant County Attorney Barry Disney argued that the officers were as specific as they could be on the warrant, but he added that because both victims were found without clothing, officers were within their limits to take clothing that appeared to be a woman’s from Aguirre’s unit.
In denying the motion, Judge Wilson said he believed the search warrants were conducted appropriately under the circumstances, though he conceded to the suppression of evidence taken from a black duffel bag seized in the November search on the grounds that its specific seizure was not covered by the search warrant.
During the hearing, it was also determined which photographs the state would be allowed to be used during the trial.
Aguirre’s defense requested the suppression of several autopsy photographs, including a picture of Juan’s body laid out on the table, on the grounds that such images would incite passionate responses in the jurors and possibly sway them against Aguirre.
County Attorney Barry Wilkerson argued that, “gruesome crimes result in gruesome photographs,” but maintained that the photographs showed necessary details.
Aguirre’s defense also requested suppression of several photographs taken at the grave where both bodies were found, but Judge Wilson denied all requests, telling the court that he did not believe any of the photographs were unduly prejudicial.
Opening statements are scheduled for June 18. The trial is expected to last four weeks. If Aguirre is found guilty of their murders, he could face the death penalty, the first for Riley County since the death penalty was reinstated in 1994.