Court upholds conviction in Smyrna murder

DOVER — The conviction of a Newark man regarding a February 2010 murder in Smyrna was upheld in the Delaware Supreme Court Thursday, according to papers.

Juan Restrepo-Duque, 18 at the time of his arrest, argued Superior Court errantly determined an arrest warrant and arrest were valid, and a statement to police and laptop information were incorrectly entered into evidence.

Juan Restrepo-Duque

Juan Restrepo-Duque

A Kent County Superior Court jury found Restrepo guilty of second-degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, motor vehicle theft and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. According to court papers he was sentenced “to a lengthy jail term, followed by decreasing levels of supervision.”

Police said at the time that they identified Restrepo as a suspect in the homicide of a 61-year-old Smyrna man at his home.

The Supreme Court acknowledged mistakes were included in a search warrant during investigation, but “they were not essential to the probable cause determination.”

Regarding Restrepo’s statement to police, the Supreme Court found that while police “arguably went beyond simple clarification of Restrepo’s ambiguous invocation of Miranda rights,” case law indicated that did not violate any clarification law.

“Finally, the Superior Court correctly found that the victim’s laptop was properly authenticated, as were social media posts,” the Supreme Court wrote.

While a police detective’s questioning of Restrepo during investigation was “troublesome” it did not “reach the level of coercion found in other cases” according to the Supreme Court.” The questioning was not intimidating or coercive, the Court wrote.

Restrepo, a Colombian national who lived in the United States seven years before his arrest, argued a detective’s failure to notify him of rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations should have precluded use of his statement to police, according to papers.

The court noted the detective did not know of Restrepo’s citizenship before the interview “and Restrepo did not tell him anything about his citizenship prior to the interview,” according to papers.

According to the Supreme Court, coverage under Consular Relations “secures only a right of foreign nationals to have their consulate informed of their arrest or detention — not to have their consulate intervene, or to have law enforcement authorities cease their investigation.”

To suppress Restrepo’s statement, the Supreme Court reasoned, would be a “vastly disproportionate remedy” for a violation.

“Therefore, the Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Restrepo’s motion to suppress,” the court wrote.
Because the state presented witnesses who could identify a laptop in evidence, “there was no need to establish a chain of custody … and the Superior Court did not err in admitting the laptop into evidence.”

The appeal was submitted to Justices Karen Valihura, James T. Vaughn Jr. and Collins Seitz on Dec. 2.

Restrepo was convicted after a jury trial held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4, 2014.

On April 15, 2014, Superior Court ruled submission of some transcripts to the jury conceivably could have been prejudicial to Restrepo and ordered a new trial. He was then convicted a second time after a jury trial.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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