Jurors could begin as early as Tuesday deciding if Reynaldo Maldonado helped murder a Daly City teen in 2001 but a judge ruled they will not first hear psychological evidence his defense hoped would show he is low-functioning.
Prosecutor Jeff Finigan argued the mental state of Maldonado, 34, is not pertinent because the defendant testified that he wasn’t even present at the May 21, 2001, stabbing of Quetzlcoatl Alba in a storage unit turned teen hangout at the Westlake Apartments. Maldonado blames childhood friend and former lover Erick Morales, 32, who is being tried separately for the murder. Maldonado claims he only buried the bloody evidence after the killing because he was protective of Morales and lied to police in part because he was afraid of Morales’ father.
Following Judge Mark Forcum’s ruling, defense attorney Paul Demeester rested his case yesterday. Trial will resume Tuesday morning with jury instructions and closing arguments.
Although Maldonado’s mental ability won’t be admissible in trial, his psychiatric and psychological evaluations were a key stumbling block in getting him to trial after he was extradited from Florida in 2007 following a tip in the then-cold case.
Prosecutors wanted access to the evaluations because they anticipated a psychiatric defense. Demeester had argued it was privileged unless Maldonado first presented his own mental health evidence but the California Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of the prosecution. However, Forcum ruled in pretrial motions the defense could not use evidence of any mental disorder and upheld the decision after Maldonado’s testimony.
Maldonado and Morales both face life in prison without parole if convicted of murdering Alba.
Prosecutors contend Maldonado held Alba down while Morales stabbed him repeatedly in the neck, arms and torso. Maldonado testified Morales called him to the scene after killing Alba and asked him to hide the knife, a cellphone and a sweatshirt. Both men were eyed as suspects but each left Daly City shortly after the murder. Maldonado eventually ended up in Florida where, according to his friend Mario Cajina, he confessed the killing and showed a photo taken of Morales standing over Alba’s body. Cajina tipped off Daly City police who found the buried items in the men’s former Daly City backyard.
Authorities extradited Maldonado who tried escaping his armed guards at San Francisco International Airport by jumping 25 feet over a concrete railing while still handcuffed and sustained severe head injuries.
In 2009, two years after Maldonado’s arrest, Morales was apprehended after an East Coast traffic stop revealed his identity.
Maldonado and Morales are both in custody without bail.
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