WILLMAR -- The state Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction and sentencing of a 28-year-old Willmar man on multiple charges for an incident that included two home invasions and shots fired at Willmar police officers.
In an unpublished opinion issued Monday, the appeals court upheld the conviction of Leroy Diaz Evans, who was sentenced in May 2011 to 308 months, more than 25 years, in prison for his role in the September 2010 incident.
According to the Department of Corrections website, Diaz Evans is currently housed in the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Rush City and his anticipated release date from prison is October 2027.
In the case, public defense attorneys argued that Diaz Evan's convictions should be reversed because he was denied his right to a speedy trial and because the judge refused to instruct the jury to consider a duress defense on all counts. They also argued that the judge erred in sentencing on multiple offenses because they were all part of the same behavioral incident.
The appeals court found that Diaz Evans contributed to the delay in his trial because he asked that the trial be continued until after his co-defendant, Arcadio Salinas, was sentenced. Salinas had indicated he would exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he was asked to testify before his sentencing.
The court also found that the judge in the case, District Judge Kathryn N. Smith, did not abuse her discretion in the jury instructions on the duress defense.
The court noted that Smith provided a thoughtful and thorough record of her decision regarding the jury instruction, which was allowed on the charges for the first home invasion, but not the second home invasion or the deadly force charge.
Under the duress defense, Diaz Evans could have been found not guilty of those particular charges if the jury had found that he was in fear that he would be immediately killed by his co-defendant if he did not follow through with the crime and it was not possible for him to withdraw to safety.
Finally, the appeals court found that the two home invasions, about two hours apart and involving unique sets of victims, and the shooting at the police officers were not a single behavior incident, as they "do not have the requisite unity of time, place and purpose" to be a single incident.
Diaz Evans' sentence included consecutive sentences of 98 months on a first-degree burglary charge for the first home invasion incident, 90 months on another first-degree burglary charge for the second home invasion and 120 months on the charge of use of deadly force against a peace officer.
Diaz Evans was the third and final defendant sentenced for the Sept. 15, 2010, incident at a home near the Subway restaurant parking lot along Second Street Southeast. Jesus Trevino, 33, was sentenced to 58 months on a first-degree burglary charge. Salinas was sentenced to 34 months for aiding and abetting first-degree attempted robbery.
A jury found Diaz Evans guilty in March 2011 of eight of the nine felony charges against him. He was acquitted of the most serious charge, first-degree attempted murder of a peace officer, but was found guilty of use of deadly force against a peace officer and guilty of seven first-degree burglary and aggravated robbery charges. The jury also determined that Diaz Evans is a danger to public safety, an aggravated factor in his sentencing.