Judge considers setting aside guilty verdict in Mobile murder case

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – A jury convicted David Cordero-Hernandez last month of murder, but the judge who presided over the trial is mulling a request to overturn the conviction.

Judge Edward McDermott, a retired jurist who presided over the trial because the full-time judge was suspended at the time, heard arguments Tuesday on the defense’s request to overturn the jury’s verdict and acquit Cordero-Hernández or order a new trial He adjourned the defendant’s sentencing hearing and said he would consider the defense’s request.

Defense attorney Dom Soto argued at a hearing Tuesday that the evidence overwhelmingly supports his client’s innocence. He said co-defendant Marcos Oslan and two women exonerated Cordero-Hernández.

“I don’t know what happened in the jury room,” he told the judge. “But I think you trusted the jury to follow the law, and they didn’t.”

Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Walsh argued Soto made the same arguments when she rested her case and asked the judge to dismiss the charge.

“Nothing has changed since the defense rested until today,” he said.

A jury found Cordero-Hernández, 35, guilty of murder in the December 2019 shooting, stabbing and beating of Tracie Dennis. Prosecutors alleged the killing stemmed from a dispute over money and that while Oslan was shooting, Cordero- Hernandez helped him realize it.

Police discovered the body buried in Cordero-Hernandez’s backyard, and five days after the murder, authorities in Jacksonville, Florida, tracked him down along with Oslan and two women. The prosecution argued that the defendant’s escape was proof of his guilt. Walsh also argued that the 140-pound Oslan would need help subduing the 6-foot-tall victim.

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“There is absolutely no way Marcos Oslan could have done this on his own,” he said

Defense attorneys routinely ask judges to overturn the sentences. Judges are usually quick to reject those requests. In this case, however, McDermott held a hearing and asked the prosecutor questions about the evidence. After the jury reached its verdict, the judge drew the ire of the Prosecutor’s Office by letting the accused remain free on bail.

Soto told FOX10 News he’s encouraged by that news.

“It happened at his house, at David’s house,” he said outside the courtroom. “Besides that, there’s nothing – there’s nothing – there’s no there, there. I mean, you know, where’s the meat?

In court, Soto argued that prosecutors did not present enough evidence. The only person present during the murder he testified was the accused himself. The jury did hear statements that Oslan and the two women gave to police, and Soto noted that none of them implicated his client.

In addition, Soto said, another witness was present who was never questioned by police. Police said they were unable to locate him. Soto found the man later, but said by the time the trial came around, that witness was in federal custody and had been “taken away” to a federal prison.

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McDermott denied a corpse abuse charge during the trial, but allowed the murder charge to go to the jury. Soto said the judge should have dismissed both charges.

“With all due respect, it was a mistake to let it go to the jury,” Soto said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Walsh acknowledged that the witness statements did not implicate Cordero-Hernandez, but the prosecutor disputed Soto’s characterization that they “exonerated” the defendant. He urged the judge to respect the jury’s verdict, to which he pointed out that the jurors arrived after only an hour and a half of deliberation. She said the jury could draw inferences from the defendant’s own contradictory testimony.

“The defendant told three different stories just from that stand about what he heard and saw,” he said. “They were all different from what he initially told the police.”

McDermott asked Walsh if prosecutors had tried to cut a deal with Oslan in exchange for his testimony. She said yes, but that he refused because he was afraid for his family. The judge asked why prosecutors did not compel Oslan to testify.

“Don’t you think the jury would like to hear his testimony?” he asked

Walsh responded that from past experience, Oslan would likely not say anything if called to the stand and that the testimony would not be “helpful.”

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The judge also questioned why the police did not try harder to find the fifth witness. He pointed to the testimony of a police detective who stopped by the man’s home but said there were no cars at the residence.

“You didn’t bother to go up and knock on the door?” asked the judge.

Answered Walsh: “We don’t always get all the witnesses we want in these cases. We went with the evidence we had, which was pretty strong.”

Soto told FOX10 News that judges have a duty to step in if prosecutors don’t meet their burden. He said the facts of this “horrific murder” were hard to face – a victim who was grabbed, stabbed seven times and shot.

“The problem with a murder case is that you have these horrific images and you have these horrific facts. And you have a young man who was put in the prime of his life,” he said. “And that’s, you know, it’s hard to get over that kind of emotional impact when they keep bringing up these images of these terrible things that happened to this young man.”

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