A woman accused of stabbing a man to death was found guilty Friday of voluntary manslaughter.
A nine-woman, three-man jury produced its verdict against Bernadette Sanchez, 36, after less than an hour of deliberations. She was also found guilty of tampering with evidence.
During the four-day trial, the defense tried to show that Sanchez stabbed Timoteo M. Jaramillo, 36, because he came into her house and attacked her friend, Elizabeth Martin.
But prosecutors tried to paint Sanchez as an alcoholic trying to cover her tracks by throwing the murder weapon out of a truck after leaving the crime scene.
The killing occurred around 5:30 p.m. April 24 at 1916 Morrison St.
As District Judge Matt Sandoval read the verdict, Sanchez appeared emotionless, while many in the audience wept. She was taken away by jailers.
As the audience drifted into the hallway, Sanchez’s mother, Emily Sanchez, cried and hugged the defendant’s 14-year-old daughter.
“If someone beats you in your own house, you have the right to do whatever you can to stop that. He (Jaramillo) forced himself into the house,” the mother said. “I would defend myself.”
Sanchez’s attorney, David Silva, told Sanchez’s family that he couldn’t believe what happened.
“The message to the community is that if a stranger breaks into the privacy of your home and violently attacks you or a family member, don’t defend yourself and don’t defend your family member,” he said.
Jaramillo’s family, many of whom were wearing shirts with the victim’s photo, praised the verdict.
“The truth prevails,” said Angie Armijo, Jaramillo’s aunt.
The victim’s family said they were thankful for the district attorney’s office, the judge, the jury and police officers.
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In closing arguments, prosecutor Amber Hirsch told the jury the death of Jaramillo was not an accident.
Hirsch, who teamed up with fellow prosecutor Tom Clayton, said defense witness Elizabeth Martin, who had a close, intimate relationship with the defendant, had a motive to shade her testimony.
“She is a witness of a brutal stabbing with an eight-inch butcher knife. It was no accident. This was deliberate and purposeful,” Hirsch said
Hirsch said while there was blood everywhere, there was no blood on either Martin or Sanchez.
“There was blood spattered on the wall. It was dripping slowly down the wall and pooling on the floor. There was more (blood) on the sidewalk and on the truck, but there was no blood on Ms. Martin or Ms. Sanchez,” Hirsch told the jury.
The prosecution said Sanchez didn’t bother to call 911. Instead, she walked outside, pulled the knife out of Jaramillo’s back, climbed in a truck and drove away from the scene, prosecutors said. Hirsch said a doctor testified Jaramillo might have still been alive when that happened.
“During that time she throws out the knife. He (doctor) told you that if he had got help faster, he (Jaramillo) might be alive. Instead, they left him to die in the yard,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch said there was no evidence of self-defense, contending that Jaramillo’s back was to Sanchez when she stabbed him.
“She (Sanchez) was never in danger; she never argued with Timoteo Jaramillo. Elizabeth did. He never looked at her, he didn’t charge her, his back was to her. Her actions were far from reasonable, far from what would allow justified actions. This is not the wild, wild West. We are a society of laws,” Hirsh said.
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Silva, the defense attorney, said the law allows people the right of self-defense.
“The law says we can defend ourselves when somebody comes into our home and attacks us. When a household member is attacked, we can defend them as well. A person who is attacked need not retreat; that’s the law,” Silva said. “This is a case of pure self-defense, a case of defense of another.”
Silva told the jury that a shirtless stranger forced his way into the home.
“This is not an acquaintance. This is a stranger who is angry, beating and attacking Martin,” Silva said.
Regarding the prosecution’s assertion that Martin and Sanchez had been drinking alcohol all day, “It seemed to be the focus of this case, as if it had anything to do with somebody else’s right to come into your house and attack you. The state wanted to make a big deal of beer bottles and whiskey bottles in the home. What’s the theory behind that? That because someone is drinking all day, a strange man can come into your house and beat you up?” Silva asked.
Silva said police officers at the scene never mentioned that they smelled alcohol or that Sanchez or Martin had slurred speech.
“There was nothing in the multiple reports about drinking, not a single mention of a resident being drunk. Not even the smell of alcohol, yet the state, over and over says they were intoxicated,” Silva said.
Pointing to photographs of the crime scene, Silva said the state was using the amount of blood for dramatic purposes. He showed the jury pictures of items in the room when the stabbing occurred that had no blood spatter.
“The state calls it a blood-soaked room, with blood everywhere. But look at the wall. There’s no blood, there’s no blood on these boxes, no blood on the plastic containers next to the wall. But they really showed you a lot of close-ups of blood. He bled out, and that’s how he died, he bled to death. But the suggestion is that there is so much blood, it’s impossible that Elizabeth Martin didn’t have any blood on her. If that is impossible, why is no blood on these boxes?” Silva said.
Regarding the butcher knife used in the stabbing, Silva said every household in America has that kind of knife in the drawer.
“There’s nothing unique about it, nothing special, nothing magical. It’s just a big knife. People don’t think when they’re panicked. When they’re scared like this, you just grab a knife and protect your friend. She grabbed a knife and stabbed him; that’s not disputed. She was helping her friend who was already knocked unconscious,” Silva said.
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In a statement Friday, District Attorney Richard Flores praised the jury.
“The facts, in this case, were difficult and they very easily could have been swayed by sympathy or emotions; however, they did what a jury should do by applying the law to the facts...,” the DA said.
Sanchez’s sentencing date has not been set.