The two inmates accused of murdering a guard at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater in California’s Central Valley will be tried separately, a federal judge has decided.
In a blow to prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro agreed this week with defense attorneys that the case against the two inmates should be severed. Now, one murder trial is set to start in July 2014 and the other is set for April 2015, nearly seven years after the death of federal correctional officer Jose Rivera.
Attorneys for defendants Joseph Cabrera Sablan and James Ninete Leon Guerrero successfully argued that severing the cases was the best way to ensure each man receives a fair trial.
“The court balanced the interests in efficiency, fairness, accuracy and the effects of severed trials on members of Jose Rivera’s family,” Tivon Schardl, a federal public defender helping represent Sablan, said in an email Wednesday. “We believe the court’s decision will prove to be in the best interests of all concerned because it will promote the fair, accurate and efficient resolution of the cases.”