A lawyer for a Garden Grove man who murdered his wife's ex-boyfriend in March 2008, asked a panel of California appellate justices this week to overturn the conviction because the crime wasn't a premeditated killing but rather self-defense.
After the work of prosecutor Larry Yellin, an Orange County jury convicted Victor John Disalvo in 2010 for shooting Jorge Diaz in the head and Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey sentenced him to serve a term of 50 years to life in prison.
But Stephen M. Lathrop, Disalvo's attorney, told a three-member appellate panel on Monday that his 44-year-old client didn't get a fair trial because the jury never learned the full-extent of his violence-free background and that he carried the murder weapon only as a means to defend himself from Diaz.
"He brought the gun [to the Santa Ana murder scene] only for protection," Lathrop argued.
Deputy Attorney General Alana Rachel Butler told the largely-silent justices that Disalvo got a fair trial and suffered no prejudice because a handful of his allies--including fellow hunters--weren't called to testify as character references.
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Butler also reminded the panel that hours before the killing Disalvo--who nowadays lives at the California State Prison in Sacramento--did an Internet translation search on a phrase from English to Spanish: "You're dead."
"[The defendant] went to [Diaz's apartment] with a loaded 9-mm handgun and shot him within three seconds after he opened the front door," said Butler, who noted that Disalvo's claim that he'd shot only in self defense is undermined by two keys facts: he quickly disposed of the murder weapon and didn't call the police to alert them to the shooting.
The justices will issue their opinion in coming months.