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Court grants new trial after prosecutorial misconduct

April 1, 2021 GMT

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — An appellate court in Washington state said this week that a man who was sentenced in a gruesome attack resulting in his mother’s death in 2017 will get a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Sebastian Levy-Aldrete was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2018 in the death of his 77-year-old mother Maria Aldrete-Levy, who he shared a home with for seven years, The News Tribune reported Thursday. He was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Levy-Aldrete argued on appeal that he didn’t get a fair trial because of a Pierce County deputy prosecutor’s misconduct. The Washington State Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday.

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“Sebastian maintains his innocence,” Attorney Richard Lechich said Wednesday. “He’s looking forward to clearing his name and finding his mother’s killer.”

During trial, Levy-Aldrete argued that an intruder attacked his mother with a broken bottle and strangled her at their apartment. He also said he struggled with the killer and chased him.

Prosecutors said the evidence didn’t support that, and that Levy-Aldrete had spent money he and his mother planned to use to buy a house together, which was expected to close the day she died.

Levy-Aldrete argued otherwise saying he didn’t know who killed his mother, “I only know that I didn’t.”

Deputy Prosecutor Jesse Williams in his closing arguments said there was no “boogyman.” He also made an analogy to puzzle pieces that appellate Judge Lisa Sutton said was “improper.”

“The prosecutor trivialized and misstated the State’s burden of proof by using an inaccurate and confusing analogy,” Sutton said. “The cumulative effect of these repeated instances of misconduct were substantially likely to have affected the verdict.”

The opinion, signed by Judges Anne Cruser and Bradley Maxa, reversed Levy-Aldrete’s conviction.

The Pierce County prosecutor’s office is weighing whether to seek review from the state Supreme Court.