A Spanish-speaking teenager argues that she didn’t understand her right to remain silent shortly before confessing to a murder near Mitchell.
In 2009, Maricela Diaz was 15 years old and being questioned in the murder of 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara, whose body was found in the trunk of a burned car in a rural farm field.
Diaz is facing First-Degree Murder and currently a judge is not going to allow her police confession to be admitted as evidence in her trial because he doesn’t think she fully understood her rights.
Guevara was stabbed to death and then placed in the trunk of a car that was burned in a field on the Hanson and Davison County line in November 2009. But when Diaz confessed to the crime, along with 20-year-old Alexander Salgado, her attorney argues she didn’t fully comprehended her Miranda rights.
“She said that the interview by police felt like it was when she was being questioned for skipping school, and I think that just points out how immature this 15 year old is when she’s being questioned in this very serious matter,” Diaz’s attorney Douglas Dailey said.
Prosecutors say the teen who ran away from her home in Indiana with Salgado knew full well what she was doing during her three hours with investigators.
“This was a street-savvy teen who was fully aware of her rights. She was informed four different time of her right to remain silent,” Assistant South Dakota Attorney General Sherri Sundem Wald said.
Diaz was also read her rights in Spanish, a language prosecutors say she was more fluent in.
“Even the adult court recognized that any language barriers were taken care of once the Miranda warnings were given to her in Spanish,” Sundem Wald argued in front of the Supreme Court.
But Diaz’s attorney argues that this was the first time Diaz had been interviewed by police and she was simply too young to know what was happening.
“She did not understand the serious nature of this given her background and the totality of the circumstances,” Daily said.
It may take the justices several months to make a ruling in the case.
Once they do, then prosecutors can decide how to proceed with Diaz’s trial.
Alexander Salgado pleaded guilty to the murder in 2010.