CARSON CITY — The murder conviction of a Las Vegas man was thrown out Thursday by the state Supreme Court.
Justices ordered a new trial for Emmanuel Hernandez, who was sentenced in 2006 to life with the possibility of parole in the slaying of Jose Gonzalez at an apartment complex.
Hernandez was convicted in part by testimony given by Katrina Grijalva at his preliminary hearing. She said Hernandez walked up to a pickup and shot a man at least four times. The dead man was identified as Gonzalez, who lived at the Owens Avenue complex.
Grijalva failed to show up at Hernandez’s trial. Prosecutors said that she had moved to Arizona and that they had given her an airline ticket to fly to Las Vegas to testify.
On the morning of the trial, they sent a driver to the airport to pick her up. When she did not show, they called her home and spoke with a girl who told them Grijalva had left for a family emergency.
Because of her absence, District Judge Stewart Bell decided prosecutors could use the testimony she had given at the preliminary hearing.
In the decision, the Supreme Court said prosecutors should have done more than rely on a conversation with a child to find a reason for Grijalva not to appear at trial.
“The state failed to communicate with an adult in Grijalva’s household, provided no information that an actual family emergency existed, and failed to advise the district court concerning the length of Grijalva’s absence or when she would return,” the decision written by Justice Jim Hardesty said.
Justices also said prosecutors did not ask for a continuance of the trial.
Though other witnesses testified at the trial that they saw the shooting, justices said Grijalva’s preliminary hearing testimony was important in securing a first-degree murder conviction.