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New Trial Ordered for Death-Row Inmate in Warminster Killings

January 26, 2017


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Matthew Weintraub, 215.340.8159, mdweintraub@buckscounty.org                               Jill Graziano, 215.348.6084, jmgraziano@buckscounty.org

Bucks County Common  Pleas Court Judge Alan M. Rubenstein, acting on a request by the District Attorney’s Office, this morning ordered a new trial for death row inmate Alfonso Sanchez, 35, who had been convicted of first-degree murder in the 2007 shooting deaths of two people in Warminster.

The District Attorney’s request came after the office’s appellate division, reviewing Sanchez’s ongoing appeal, recently discovered a prosecutorial mistake that occurred at the time of Sanchez’s trial in 2008.

On September 30, 2008, a Bucks County jury found Sanchez guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, and 15 related counts, in the October 2007 shooting deaths of Lisa Diaz and Mendez Thomas. Both victims died of gunshots to the head, fired at close range in a Warminster apartment.

The verdicts came after a seven-day trial before Rubenstein, who on Oct. 22, 2008, formally sentenced Sanchez to death for murdering Diaz, 27, and to life in prison for murdering Thomas, 22.

The error, a failure to turn over lab reports pertaining to DNA testing, “was legally material to (Sanchez’s) defense at trial,” and therefore justifies a new trial, Deputy District Attorney Jill Graziano, a member of the appellate division, told Rubenstein at a brief hearing this morning.

Graziano said the District Attorney’s Office immediately provided copies of the lab reports to Sanchez’s appellate attorneys upon discovering them and determining that they had not been previously disclosed.

District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub praised his staff for identifying the error and disclosing it promptly to Sanchez’s attorneys.

“Whenever we discover that a mistake has been made, justice requires that we act promptly to set it right,” he said.

Assistant Federal Defender Stuart Lev, whose office has represented Sanchez during his appeals, expressed appreciation for the District Attorney’s disclosure.

“I thank and respect the Commonwealth for its candor in this matter,” Lev told Rubenstein.

Weintraub and Graziano stressed that prosecutors do not believe that the DNA evidence in any way exonerates Sanchez for the homicides. They expressed confidence that he again will be found guilty.

“The Commonwealth continues to believe the evidence of (Sanchez’s) guilt remains overwhelming and we intend, once again, to try Alfonso Sanchez for the deaths of Lisa Diaz and Mendez Thomas and to again seek the death penalty for those crimes,” Graziano said in court. “To that end, we are asking your Honor to vacate the judgment of sentence and order that a new trial be held in this matter.”

Rubenstein said he would notify President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley of his order, adding that Finley would oversee appointing a judge and new defense counsel to handle the re-trial.

A copy of Graziano’s full statement during today’s hearing can be viewed here.

Approved for release by Matthew Weintraub, District Attorney.

Alfonso Sanchez
Alfonso Sanchez

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