Dimarzio Sanchez’s attorneys learned that their expert witness was indicted on drug charges days before testifying and have filed documents indicating they may be seeking a new trial.
In April 2016, Roylynn Rides Horse, 28, was beaten and strangled into unconsciousness, doused with gasoline and set on fire. Rides Horse was left on the side of the road on the Crow Reservation in Montana and found 14 hours later. Rides Horse suffered third degree burns over 45 percent of her body and died 72 days later in a Salt Lake City hospital.
Dimarzio Swade Sanchez, 20, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Rides Horse after a four-day federal trial. Sanchez faces a mandatory life term in prison and a $250,000 fine. His co-defendant Angelica Jo Whiteman pleaded to aiding and abetting first-degree murder and his co-defendant Frank James Sanchez pleaded guilty to misprison of a felony and accessory after the fact.
At Sanchez’s trial, his defense attorneys argued that Sanchez did not have the mental capacity necessary to premeditate Rides Horse’s murder. They argued that Sanchez was a “follower” who functioned at a grade-school level. This argument was supported by an evaluation by psychologist Dr. Teresa Hastings, who testified that she believed that Sanchez suffered from the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Hastings was the sole defense witness.
Motion for New Trial
Following Sanchez’s conviction, his defense attorneys learned that Hastings had been indicted on four felony counts of illegally obtaining the sedative zolpidem just days before the trial. Zolpidem is a sleep aid used to treat insomnia that is marketed under the brand name Ambien. Sanchez’s attorneys said that they they were made aware of the indictment by a counselor who knows Hastings.
Defense attorneys expressed concerns about Hastings’ indictment and its implications for Sanchez’s conviction. Assistant Federal Defender Gillian Gosch wrote, “While Dr. Hastings enjoys the presumption of innocence, the fact that she faces four drug charges at least raises the question whether Dr. Hastings was under the influence when she examined Mr. Sanchez and/or when she testified at his trial.”
Hastings was indicted for alleged offenses occurring from June 2016 to February 2017. Hastings evaluated Sanchez during that time period. Sanchez’s attorneys expressed their concerns about whether Hastings was impaired when she examined Sanchez. They allege, “The very witness to produce the evidence about how Mr. Sanchez could not form the requisite intent could have potentially been examining Mr. Sanchez and testifying on behalf of Mr. Sanchez while under the influence.”
Defense attorneys filed documents with the court, indicating that they may be seeking a new trial. They claim that the testimony given by Hastings may have been tainted and argue that Sanchez could have been acquitted or convicted of a lesser charge if another expert had testified. The defense attorneys said that they wanted to review Hastings’ examinations of Sanchez to determine if there was any problems with her work.
Sanchez has until January 5 to request a new trial.