SANTA ANA : DeHoyos Jury Hears Closing Arguments
The defense attorney for Richard Lucio DeHoyos, accused of kidnaping and killing a 9-year-old Santa Ana schoolgirl, told jurors Tuesday that his client’s actions were the result of organic brain damage and a personality disorder.
“You, as jurors, cannot judge this case by sympathy for Nadia Puente or the Puente family,” Milton C. Grimes, DeHoyos’ attorney, said during closing arguments. “Do not be swayed by emotions, by prejudice or by your hatred for Richard DeHoyos. . . .”
The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert C. Gannon Jr., however, reminded jurors that few of the facts in the case were in dispute, and he called the psychiatric testimony by defense witnesses a “slap in the face of common sense.”
“Is it rational to say that that man did not know what he was doing when he approached Nadia Puente and enticed her into that car?” he asked.
The fourth-grader was on her way home from Diamond Elementary School on March 20, 1989, when she was lured into DeHoyos’ car and driven to a motel on Harbor Boulevard, where DeHoyos had rented a room earlier in the day.
Pathologists said she was sexually assaulted and died of asphyxiation in the motel bathtub. Her body was later found wrapped in a blanket and trash bag, stuffed in a trash can, and left at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
DeHoyos, 34, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murder, kidnaping for the purpose of child molestation, rape, attempted rape, sodomy and child molestation.
If convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances, he could receive the death penalty. If convicted, however, he would face a second proceeding before the same jury to determine if he was sane.
In their closing arguments to the jury, both attorneys referred extensively to standard, written jury instructions on various charges and points of law.
“You should not be swayed and judge him because you hate what happened to Nadia Puente on March 20, 1989, because every living person hates what happened,” Grimes said. “You may not like what he did to Nadia Puente, but you’ve got to recognize his mental illness. . . . That’s what this is about.”
He called DeHoyos “a man who suffers from mental illness from Day 1 of his life.”
Grimes asked jurors to consider whether a reasonable interpretation of the evidence would suggest that “the man did what he did because he suffers from a mental illness as described by the doctors. . . .”
Citing the testimony of five psychiatrists and psychologists that DeHoyos suffered from organic brain damage as a result of injuries and beatings, as well as a personality disorder, Grimes said that DeHoyos’ actions were “explosive” and “impulsive. . . . This man is a product of something beyond his control.”
Gannon, however, reminded the jury of DeHoyos’ confession to the slaying, which was made shortly after his arrest in Texas nearly two weeks after the crime.
“It’s not really tough to reach the conclusion, the fact that he killed her,” he said.
Gannon also again took the jury through the evidence, which included:
* DeHoyos’ fingerprint on the plastic trash bag in which the body was found and on the trash can itself.
* The motel registration form, indicating that two people would be occupying the room.
* Testimony that DeHoyos attempted to lure another schoolgirl into his car just before he encountered Nadia.
Under the felony murder law, Gannon told the jury, if the killing took place during the commission of a listed felony, “it doesn’t make any difference if the killing was intentional or accidental--it’s first-degree murder.”
Earlier in the trial, DeHoyos disrupted the courtroom, knocking over tables and chairs. He also growled at photographers. But since those initial outbursts, DeHoyos has remained impassive. He stared straight ahead and did not look at either attorneys or the jury during closing arguments.
Members of the Puente family were seated in the courtroom.