Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
MN Supreme Court denies petition in Lester Prairie murder case

January 12, 2009

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Appeals in a Lester Prairie murder case reached the end of the line with a recent court decision.

In December, the Minnesota Supreme Court denied a petition for post conviction relief and affirmed the conviction and sentence of Sergio Sanchez-Diaz.

In June 2004, Sanchez-Diaz was convicted of first and second degree murder in the 2001 stabbing death of Laura Vazquez Ruelas and her unborn child. He is currently serving a life sentence and a 25.5-year consecutive sentence as the result of those convictions, according to court documents.

Sanchez-Diaz appealed, and the court affirmed the convictions.

According to a supreme court opinion filed Dec. 24, Sanchez-Diaz filed a petition for post conviction relief in August 2007, asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

A person convicted of a crime may file a petition for post conviction relief, but allegations in such petitions must be more than argumentative assertions without factual support.

An evidentiary hearing is unnecessary if the petitioner fails to allege facts that are sufficient to entitle him to the relief requested, according to the court decision.

In November 2007, the postconviction court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing on the grounds that it was procedurally barred.

On Jan. 11, 2008, Sanchez-Diaz filed a motion for reconsideration in district court, and a notice of appeal in supreme court, as well as a motion to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal.

The supreme court granted a 30-day extension to file the appeal.

Subsequently, Sanchez-Diaz sought a second extension to file his notice of appeal to allow the post conviction court sufficient time to rule on his motion for reconsideration.

On Feb. 19, 2008, the supreme court denied the motion, concluding that a second extension was precluded by the rules.

In order to prevail in a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Sanchez-Diaz would have to show that his “counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness,” and that “a reasonable probability exists that the outcome would have been different but for the counsel’s errors.”

In addition to affirming the conviction and sentence of Sanchez-Diaz, the court order denies any further proceedings in the case.


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