Teen Convicted Of 2009 Murder Has Appeal Heard By SD Supreme Court

The teen convicted of first degree murder in the death of 16-year-old girl back in November of 2009 was back in court. Maricela Diaz, who is 21 serving an 80 year sentence, had her appeal heard in front of the South Dakota Supreme Court Monday.

On November 10, 2009, Maricela Diaz and Alexander Salgado lured Jasmine Guevara to a remote location in Hanson County. The two stabbed her, put her in the trunk of her car and set it on fire while she was still alive. At the time, Diaz was 15-years-old. She claims she was afraid of Salgado and forced to participate in the crime.

Diaz’s lawyers argued to the Supreme Court that the trial court failed to look at the circumstances surrounding the crime or her background.

Defense Attorney Chris Nipe said, “The trial court made nine pages of comments regarding this at sentencing. Overwhelmingly it was a discussion about the nature of the offense.”

The attorney for the state argued that the court had the proper instruction. However, he says it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because there wasn’t evidence that Diaz was also a victim.

Assistant Attorney General Paul Swedlund said, “If she’s really afraid of him, all she had to do is say ‘Thank God you found me. That man is dangerous. He made me participate in a murder, get me out of here’.”

The defense also argued that Diaz’s 80-year sentence was grossly disproportionate because it’s essentially a life sentence.

Nipe said, “Parole is not a right. The legislature can control the parole system at any time.”

The state says the sentence is fair because Diaz is eligible for parole in 40 years, which falls within her life expectancy. She would 55-years-old.

“It was not an abuse of discretion to impose this sentence in light of the fact the court did consider Diaz’s intellect, did consider her life, did consider her life experiences,” said Swedlund.

Salgado, who pleaded guilty to 2nd Degree Murder as part of a plea deal, is serving a life sentence.