The second time was a charm for a man first convicted six years ago for a 2006 murder, as a Pinellas County jury opted not to convict a Mississippi man again for the crime last week.
Twenty-nine-year-old Hector Josue Vasquez-Padilla was first charged with the murder of Marcos Antonio Diaz in 2011. According to county prosecutors, Vasquez believed that Diaz intended to rob him of $2,000 in the course of a planned drug deal.
Though the murder was determined to have occurred in May 2006, investigators had precious little evidence at their disposal. However, a break in the case came in 2008, as Abel Garcia, an alleged witness to the murder, came forward and told investigators that he was in a vehicle next to Diaz at the time of his death.
Although a second witness ultimately came forward alleging he helped Vasquez dispose of the murder weapon, neither his fingerprints nor his DNA were found at the scene of the crime. Further, both witnesses suffered from credibility challenges, as both were in prison due to convictions for violent crimes.
Nevertheless, after a four-day trial and seven hours of deliberations, a jury found Vasquez guilty of first-degree murder, which came with an automatic sentence of life in prison with no hope for parole.
However, upon appeal, Vasquez’s counsel successfully argued that an audio recording of Garcia introduced into evidence at trial violated his client’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him. Garcia told the court in the course of the latest trial that he could not recollect the details of his conversation that was captured on the now-unavailiable recording, paving the way for the appellate court’s decision to overturn the original conviction.
Vasquez, who originally hails from Puerto Rico, lists an address in Yazoo City as his home. Although he was acquitted of Diaz’s murder, Vasquez remains in the custody of the Pinellas County Sheriff as he awaits trial on unspecified federal charges.