Monday, June 18, 2007
C.A. Upholds East Los Angeles Man’s Conviction for Killing Girlfriend
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district Friday affirmed an East Los Angeles resident’s conviction for the 2002 murder of his girlfriend.
Justice Madeleine Flier, in an unpublished opinion for Div. Eight, said that any evidentiary or instructional error that may have occurred at Roger Marquez’s trial was harmless, even under a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, given the overwhelming strength of the prosecution’s evidence.
Sheriff’s deputies, responding to 911 call placed by the defendant, found the body of 21-year-old Noelle Chagolla at the home she shared with Marquez, his mother, and the victim’s 6-year-old daughter. The daughter was not Marquez’s, but the couple was expecting a child of their own, a fact that witnesses said made Chagolla happy but upset the defendant.
Marquez claimed he had come home and discovered his girlfriend’s body, but he later was arrested. A detective who came to the scene told a reporter a short time later that “it was probably one of the more gruesome cases I’ve handled.”
The autopsy showed 26 stab wounds, eight of which were deep enough to be fatal.
Marquez was initially charged with murdering Chagolla and the fetus, with special circumstances of murder and torture. The fetal murder charge and the special circumstance allegations were dismissed for insufficient evidence, and the first trial ended with the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict.
On retrial, the defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced him to 26 years to life in prison.
On appeal, the defense contended that the prosecution should not have been allowed to present a recreation of the position of the victim’s body, that a portion of the pathologist’s testimony was hearsay, and that several jury instructions based on the new standard CALCRIM instructions misstated the law.
Flier, writing for the Court of Appeal, however, eschewed extensive discussion of the legal issues, saying the judge’s rulings, even if erroneous, made little difference in the outcome.
“Appellant was the only person with a motive to kill Chagolla, as she was pregnant, he wanted her to move out, and she refused to do so. Prior to the killing, he told various people that he felt trapped, hated her, wanted her out of his life, felt like stabbing her, was unhappy about having to pay child support, planned to do something with a knife that would lead to a long prison term, and was upset that his mother wanted him to move out but wanted Chagolla to remain in the house. He and Chagolla were alone together at the house when she was killed. He mysteriously burned his shirt in the fireplace around noon, even though it was a hot day, which suggested that he tried to destroy evidence. Most significantly, he told a friend that evening that he had “messed up” and needed to leave town. Chagolla’s body was in a bedroom of the house, but it was wrapped in blankets and a sleeping bag from appellant’s room in the garage. There was no evidence that anyone broke into the house, or that anything was missing..”
Attorneys on appeal were Richard D. Miggins, by appointment, for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Linda C. Johnson and James W. Bilderback II for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Marquez, B190013.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company