Attempted murder case headed back to local court
By ANGIE HAFLICH
The Kansas Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded back to Finney County District Court the attempted first-degree murder conviction of a Garden City man.
Gustavo Ramos-Beleta, who was convicted and sentenced on charges of attempted first-degree murder in January 2011, most likely will be granted a new trial, in which a lesser offense of attempted second-degree murder will be sought on the basis that Ramos-Beleta was intoxicated during his attack on his ex-wife, Maria Castillo.
Gustavo Ramos-Beleta was sentenced to 48 years in prison after being convicted on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated intimidation of a witness, one count of criminal threat, intimidation of a witness, stalking, violation of a protection-from-abuse order and child endangerment.
He was found guilty of breaking into Castillo's home at 606 Alfalfa St., Apt. 2, and repeatedly stabbing her with a knife and a screwdriver. During the attack, Castillo's son, Gustavo Ramos, called 911. When officers Douglas Heit and Bo Jacobs arrived, Ramos-Beleta continued the attack on Castillo. This prompted Heit to shoot him twice, which stopped the attack. Both Castillo and Ramos-Beleta were then treated for their injuries at St. Catherine Hospital and later released. All four of Castillo's children, three of whom were minors at the time of the incident, were at the home during the attack.
In his appeal, Ramos-Beleta argued the district court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of attempted second-degree murder.¬
According to the court of appeals' opinion, which was filed Friday, Ramos-Beleta claims there was evidence presented at trial to establish that his intoxication prevented him from forming the premeditation necessary to commit attempted first-degree murder. Ramos-Beleta's blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit at the time of the attack. On appeal, Ramos-Beleta also contended that the state failed to present sufficient evidence to support the charges of aggravated intimidation of a witness, intimidation of a witness and endangering a child, however the court affirmed these charges.
Lois Malin, assistant Finney County attorney who tried the case, was unavailable for comment, but Finney County Attorney John Wheeler said that while he is disappointed with the court of appeal's decision, he is obligated to abide by its findings.
"I will say I'm truly disappointed for the victims of this offense, that it does appear that they're going to have to go into another trial on something that was very traumatic for the family to begin with," Wheeler said. "But that is the ruling of the court of appeals at this point."
Before a new trial can take place, Wheeler said that a mandate must first be issued within the next 30 days.
"The court of appeals has rendered a decision reversing the attempted first-degree murder, but that decision isn't final until the mandate is issued," he said. "Right now, we do not have the mandate back from the court of appeals and the decision is not final until the mandate is issued."
A mandate, in this case, means an order from an appellate court to a lower court (usually the original trial court in the case) directing the lower court to enforce a court order or to comply with the appellate court's ruling.
Wheeler said that after reading the opinion, the county attorney's office is reviewing whether they will seek petition for review of the decision from the Kansas Supreme Court, but that the decision to do so won't be made until the mandate is issued.
"The supreme court can either accept it for review — in that case, the order of the court of appeals is stayed pending the final decision of the supreme court — or, if the supreme court denies the petition for review, then the determination of the court of appeals is final and the case is reversed and remanded for trial," he said.
If the court of appeals ruling stands, Wheeler said while he isn't certain when a new trial will take place, he would expect it to be within 90 days after Ramos-Beleta is brought back to Finney County.
Ramos-Beletas currently is incarcerated at the Lansing Correctional Facility.