A Minot man has his guilty verdict for murdering his ex-girlfriend overturned by the State’s Supreme Court.
Bradley Morales was convicted of murder in May of 2018.
He was found guilty of stabbing his ex-girlfriend in the neck during an argument.
Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson says her staff will “most definitely” re-try the case against Morales. Larson says she’s disappointed on behalf of the victim’s family that they will have to go through a trial again. Morales admitted during the trial that he stabbed Sharmaine Leake, but he said it wasn’t intentional.
His appeal to the Supreme Court included the argument that the district court in Ward County violated his right to a public trial by closing eight different hearings to the public.
The district judge in the case expressed concern over tainting the jury because of public and media interest in the case.
Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson says she’s disappointed by the errors made by the District Court, but she’s not surprised by the Supreme Court opinion because the Court has made it clear that court closures must follow certain factors and in this case it didn’t happen.
With the Supreme Court decision, the murder judgment is reversed and remanded for a new trial.
Morales had been sentenced in September of last year to 40 years in jail, he wasn’t scheduled for release until August of 2051.
In the Supreme Court opinion, Justice Tufte says “we do not lightly reverse the conviction in the absence of any apparent prejudice to the defendant flowing from erroneous trial closures.”
Tufte goes on to say, “Here we conclude that the repeated exclusion of the public without findings articulated on the record before the closures negatively affects the fairness, integrity and public reputation of our criminal justice system.”
Morales will not be released from jail at this time. He’s currently being housed at the State Penn. He could be transferred back to the Ward County Jail for a possible new bond hearing if requested.