Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dump The Body Across The Line and Ditch the Truck, Part II: State v, Serrato

State v. Serrato, no 08-0859 ((Iowa July 9, 2010)

As we reported back in June 2009 the case of Victor Serrato was surely headed for the Supreme Court of Iowa and we, as usual, were right.

Serrato was charged in Scott County with first degree murder in the death of Mimi Carmona, along with kidnaping and nonconsensual termination of a pregnancy thrown in for good measure. Serrato was convicted on all counts, and appealed.

Here's how we described the facts back then.

Everything centered around the Escorpion bar in Muscatine. Serrato's current girlfriend arrived at the bar and got into a fight with Carmona, who alleged that Serrato was the father of her pending bundle of joy.

Serrato was notified about the affray and headed to the bar to settle things with Carmona. A fight broke out in the parking lot between Carmona and Serrato and shortly after, they disappeared along with Serrato's truck.

Carmona's body was discovered in a ditch on the Rock Island side of the bridge the next morning. A plastic bag entwined in her hair bore DNA from herself and from Serrato.

The court of appeals also chose to disregard the testimony of a jailhouse informant who related damaging admissions that Serrato had made, and the way the murder truck disappeared courtesy of Serrato's brother Edgardo.

The court of appeals remanded the case for dismissal, on the theory that there was insufficient evidence to show that Serrato had the necessary malice or formed the requisite intent to kill in Iowa so as to confer jurisdiction.

The Iowa Supreme Court accepted the case for further review and reinstated the judgment of conviction. Noting that as a state of mind malice aforethought was rarely susceptible of direct proof but could be established by circumstantial evidence, and by inferences drawn from the conduct of the defendant and the attendant circumstances in the light of human behaviour and experience.

Although there were no eyewitnesses to the murder, the body was found in Illinois, and the exact location of the crime was not located, the conduct of the defendant in responding to phone calls, his movements during that time, and a physical altercation with the decedent in a public area demonstrated a fixed purpose to do physical harm that satisfied the inference of malice.


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