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Salt Lake County DA wants two convictions overturned

Posted at 8:29 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 22:29:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County District Attorney is asking a judge for the convictions of two Utah men to be overturned after mistakes were uncovered after more than a decade.

“There was a series of procedural errors that were conducted, the end of which is a conviction that can’t stand,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said.

The motions filed Monday come at the request of the DA’s Conviction Integrity Panel, which found the men were juveniles when they were mistakenly convicted in adult court.

"I looked at those cases and thought, 'Wait a second. This actually should never have happened,'” public defense attorney Benji McMurray said.

Marlo Navorro’s birth date was wrong when he pleaded guilty to distributing drugs in 2010. Sim Gill says the 17-year-old should never have been in 3rd District Court.

The same thing happened to Jose Barrera-Landa in 2008. At the time, the prosecutor’s office believed he was 19, while he was, in fact, 17 years old. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery.

McMurray argues staff didn’t double-check basic information and the two should have been in juvenile court. Both were deported because of the convictions.

“But for these wrongful convictions, they probably could have remained in the United States and had hope of establishing their families here and building a life for themselves here. But because of these wrongful convictions, that was taken away from them,” McMurray said.

Gill believes there could be similar errors in other cases.

The victim in Barrera-Landa’s case was consulted before a request was filed to vacate his conviction.

Gill said the victim supported the decision. Neither case will be re-prosecuted.