Guam Supreme Court Denies Appeal By Tourist Murderer

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

DeSoto asked for reversal due to inadequate jury instructions

By Jasmine Stole

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 12, 2016) – The Supreme Court of Guam on Monday denied an appeal filed by convicted murderer Chad DeSoto, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing three tourists in Tumon in February 2013.

DeSoto pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness for driving into pedestrians on a Tumon sidewalk before crashing the car and then stabbing bystanders with knives. The case went to trial and a jury returned a guilty verdict in August 2014.

In his appeal, DeSoto argued that his conviction should be reversed because the court didn’t adequately instruct the jury about considering the relevance of DeSoto’s mental state in his case. Further, DeSoto argued not all witness testimony should’ve been included in the trial.

In their opinion issued Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Torres and Associate Justices F. Philip Carbullido and Katherine Maraman affirmed DeSoto’s criminal convictions.

DeSoto was found guilty of three counts of aggravated murder and 11 counts of attempted aggravated murder, according to news files.

In his appeal, DeSoto argued the jury should’ve been instructed that the prosecution was required to disprove DeSoto’s mental illness beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court of Guam’s instructions to the jury weren’t "erroneous under Guam law."

Testimonies

Among his other arguments for an appeal, DeSoto argued the court shouldn’t have allowed testimony from people — both victims and non-victims — who told jurors how their lives were personally affected by the incident.

In its opinion, Guam’s high court stated such testimonies wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the case.

In addition, DeSoto argued the court shouldn’t have allowed the testimony of his psychotherapist, as it was a breach of doctor-patient privilege. However, the opinion states DeSoto waived the privilege when his attorneys disclosed medical records from the doctor to other expert witnesses.

DeSoto also based his appeal on what he believed was his trial attorney’s failure to object to the psychotherapist testimony, which resulted in ineffective assistance of counsel.

The errors collectively, DeSoto claimed, impacted his right to a fair trial.

The Supreme Court however opined that the errors committed by the trial court did not cumulatively impact DeSoto’s right to a fair trial.

In February 2013, DeSoto drove a car onto a Tumon sidewalk, running over pedestrians, before crashing into an ABC Store outside the Outrigger Guam Resort.

After the crash, he exited his car and stabbed bystanders with knives he had placed in the car.

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