High court to review life sentence of Willmar, Minn., in sexual assault case
WILLMAR — The state Supreme Court has granted further review of the case of Jose Santoya Juarez, the 53-year-old Willmar man convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in July 2010 in an alley near the Willmar Eagles Club.
According to the state Department of Corrections website, Juarez is serving his sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Rush City.
In November 2012, the state Court of Appeals affirmed Juarez’s conviction in the case, finding that Juarez’s constitutional rights were not violated by the state statute allowing life prison sentences for a person previously convicted of a sex crime and having met the “heinous element” standard, and the appeals court also found that the district judge did not err in her handling of the case.
Juarez was indicted by a grand jury on four charges for the July 27, 2010 incident. He was found guilty of all four counts, including attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct, second-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and third-degree assault, by District Judge Kathryn N. Smith in August 2011 in Kandiyohi County District Court.
Juarez was sentenced in October 2011 to life in prison on the second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge.
There were two factors that constituted the “heinous element” required by the state statute that allows prosecutors to seek life sentences for dangerous sexual offenders: Juarez had a prior conviction for criminal sexual conduct in 1997 and he removed his victim 209 feet into a small, narrow alley before assaulting her.