On Tuesday morning in Riley District Court the capital murder trial of Luis Aguirre continues as it enters its second phase, and jurors will decide whether or not to give Aguirre the death penalty. Aguirre has been convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Tanya Maldonado, and their 13-month-old son Juan in October of 2009. Aguirre then buried their bodies in shallow graves in a field nearby.
In opening statements prosecutors informed the jury that the aggravating facts in the case are the premeditated murders, and the jurors must weigh the deaths of Tanya and her son Juan against any factors that would mitigate the aggravating circumstances.
Defense Attorney Jeffrey Wicks countered in his opening statements that any evidence presented by the defense during the sentencing phase is not meant to excuse the murders in any way, but instead give reasons why Aguirre should live. Wicks went on to describe Aguirre’s life, and how his blood held traces of marijuan at birth. Wicks also introduced what would be the common theme of the day, as he described Aguirre’s mother as being an abusive alcoholic who was in and out of Aguirre’s life.
After opening statements the prosecution rested. Aguirre’s defense teams then started to call witnesses.
First on the stand for the defense is Amy Nguyen, a GIS analyst who presented a series of maps showing the environmental conditions Luis Aguirre faced as he was growing up. Much of Nguyen’s presentation revolved around the “Logans Square” area of Chicago, and showed the jurors the low levels of education in the population. Nguyen also testified that other environmental factors such as high levels of lead, and pollution which are also present in that location. Nguyen’s presentation combined census data with a research paper on determinants of young violent criminals.
Assistant Riley County prosecutor Barry Disney cross examined Nguyen, and pressed her on the fact that the presentation was based on statistical data and groups rather than a individual statement regarding Luis Aguirre.
Other defense testimony included members of the family describing how Aguirre was a good child growing up, and how he struggled with dealing with an alcoholic mother and her abuse. One Aunt testified she once saw Aguirre’s mother trying to kiss him in an inappropriate manner at a Thanksgiving get together. Others testified about the frequent beatings they witnessed Aguirre enduring from his mother, and other punishments such as being locked in a darkened bathroom for extended periods of time.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Wicks asked the same question at the end of the witnesses testimony. Do you want Luis to live? Many answered a tearful yes, and Aguirre’s foster parent Olga Rivera said in a video interview that she believed only God should be allowed to decide who lives or dies.
The trial continues on Tuesday morning at 0900 am in Riley County District Court.