PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Supreme Court has set aside a Pennington County man’s claims that he was wrongly convicted of rape.
Theodore Guzman received three life sentences in 2021 for first-degree rape and sexual contact with two of his children and one of his children’s friends.
The state’s high court, in a decision publicly released Thursday, denied all six issues Guzman had raised on appeal.
The justices agreed that Circuit Judge Robert Mandel violated Guzman’s constitutional right to present a defense by excluding a defense witness for violating a sequestration order. The case marked the first time that the justices examined a circuit judge’s exclusion of a defense witness.
“Based on our review of the record, the total exclusion of Helen as a witness was too harsh a remedy for the violation of the sequestration order under the circumstances presented,” Justice Patricia DeVaney wrote.
But the justices decided the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Helen’s proffered testimony did not relate to the claims by N.G. and L.G., who, along with W.B., described instances of sexual abuse by Guzman that were similar to those described by A.C. Given the evidence in its totality, along with the fact that Helen was not in close proximity to the events in question, it is highly unlikely that testimony stating she did not hear anything on the night A.C. was allegedly raped would have impacted the jury’s assessment of the charges presented,” Justice DeVaney wrote.