The Supreme Court of Guam has vacated a conviction against Mark Anthony Torre Jr. after finding the Superior Court erred when it denied his motion to suppress.
A jury found Torre guilty of negligent homicide and aggravated assault in March 2017 for the death of Elbert Piolo.
Piolo died after being shot once below his right armpit with Torre's gun in the early morning hours of July 13, 2015.
The prosecution accused Torre of causing Piolo's death during an alcohol-fueled argument. The defense countered that Piolo was distraught over an extramarital affair and shot himself just as Torre was trying to prevent him from committing suicide.
In their appeal, Torre's attorneys, Jay and Anita Arriola, cited the trial court's decision to allow jurors to view the bodycam video interrogation of Torre shortly after Piolo's death.
The video shows Torre sitting on the back of his pickup in police custody following the incident and being interrogated by other officers for nearly 50 minutes.
The interrogation took place before Torre was read his Miranda rights, which allow a defendant to remain silent and seek legal counsel before answering any questions – a violation of the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against self-incrimination, the attorneys argued.
The appeal also faults the trial court for allowing a mental examination of Torre by a clinical psychologist brought in by the prosecution.
Torre's attorneys argue that the examination of their client by a psychologist retained by the prosecution amounted to "a custodial interrogation for Fifth Amendment purposes" and should have been "preceded by Miranda warnings. None were given here," the appeal states.
The Supreme Court determined the trial court should have granted the suppression of the body camera footage and vacated the conviction.
Justices found that the error was not harmless.
Torre received an eight-year sentence and has been under house arrest pending the appeal of his conviction.
The Supreme Court decision comes just days before the four-year anniversary of Piolo's death. Piolo's family and friends have planned a "Justice For Bert" rally this Friday at the Chief Quipuha Loop in Hagåtña.
This story is developing.