- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

BALTIMORE — Opening statements began yesterday in the retrial of two Mexican illegal aliens accused of nearly beheading three young relatives in their northeast Baltimore apartment.

Prosecutors said DNA evidence will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Adan Canela, 19, and Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 24, strangled, beat and slashed the throats of Ricardo Espinoza, 9, his sister Lucero, 8, and their male cousin Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10.

Assistant State’s Attorney Sharon R. Holback said there is still no motive as to why the children were slain.

But witness testimony placing the men at the crime scene along with a bloody glove, jeans and shoes tested by new, improved technology that excludes more than 99 percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S. will prove their guilt, she said.

“These two men slaughtered these children methodically, brutally [and] horribly,” Miss Holback told jurors yesterday. “Through science you will hear the voices of Ricardo, Lucero and Alexis, and they will say my blood is on [their] hands.”

Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela, the children’s uncle and cousin, respectively, entered the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles yesterday, with their hair slicked back and wearing suits contradicting their accused status.

Defense attorneys say that lack of a motive and eyewitnesses and insufficient evidence will kill the state’s case.

“The DNA in this case is not cut, it is not dry,” said Nick Panteleakis, Mr. Perez’s attorney. “The government doesn’t know what happened. They’re going to present a jigsaw puzzle and hope you can solve it for them. … Almost every family member could match this piece of DNA they’re talking about.”

James Rhodes, lead defense attorney for Mr. Canela, said police “jumped the gun” when they arrested the men in May 2004. Police also randomly questioned dozens of other Hispanic-looking persons waiting at bus and train stations in the city, he said.

“This was one of the sloppiest, most convoluted pieces of police work I’ve seen in 10 years,” said Mr. Rhodes, who agreed with Mr. Panteleakis that officers were overwhelmed and felt pressure to solve the high-profile case amid interest from the governor and public.

Mr. Rhodes maintains that his client is innocent and said that his cross-examination will prove that Mr. Perez used Mr. Canela as an alibi.

The first trial last year ended in a hung jury after five weeks of testimony.

This time, the men’s fate will be decided by six male and six female jurors, along with six alternates. They include eight black women, eight black men and two white women.

Attorneys speculate the trial could take weeks.

The case will resume Monday.

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