Dutchman won’t get retrial for teenage murder


HOLLAND — Convicted killer Juan Sandro Cabrera, 21, has lost another court battle in his quest for a new trial for the murder of 14-year-old Troy “TJ” Wells.

Cabrera had asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn a May 2021 decision by an Ottawa County judge denying his request for a new trial. Cabrera based his request for a new trial on a claim that his defense attorney had not done a good enough job investigating the case and defending him at trial.

The appeals committee found no reason to overturn Judge Karen Miedema’s ruling that her allegations did not warrant a new trial.

On February 16, 2019, Cabrera shot and killed Wells with a semi-automatic rifle in the hallway of a hotel in Holland Township. Cabrera, associated with the Holland Latin Kings gang, was found guilty of first degree murder and gang membership by a jury.

Cabrera and other teenagers were at a party in a hotel room when Wells walked down the hall and was confronted by one of Cabrera’s band members. Cabrera, who was in the hotel room, grabbed the gun and opened the door to shoot Wells. At trial, prosecutors argued that Cabrera was a young gang member trying to rise through the ranks by “doing dirt.”

Continued: Cabrera loses bid for retrial in teenage murder

Continued: Convicted Holland murderer back in court for retrial

In his appeal, Cabrera argued that his lawyer should have objected to the introduction of some of the evidence into the trial, including the vicautopsy photos and expert testimony on gang culture. The appeals court concluded that there was no problem in allowing the evidence to be introduced, so an objection from Cabrera’s attorney would not have changed the course of the trial.

He also said his attorney failed to thoroughly investigate video evidence showing Cabrera firing the gun, noting the shooter’s ‘awkward position’ and a ‘white spot’ that could be another hand on the gun. tear.

After being convicted, Cabrera hired a new lawyer and paid a videographer to piece together the security video footage that captured the murder in a bid to show it was possible there was a second person in the doorway. the door holding the gun and Cabrera, rather than being the shooter, was trying to grab the gun to stop the shot.

The judge dismissed the video as fictional.

The appeals court agreed, writing that Cabrera’s trial attorney had good reason to view the video as damning evidence of Cabrera’s guilt and had not failed in his duty by not considering the possibility. of a second shooter.

Cabrera’s trial attorney had attempted to distract from the video and instead based his defense on questioning the integrity of the teenage eyewitnesses who had identified Cabrera as the shooter.

Cabrera is serving a life sentence at Bellamy Creek Correctional Center in Ionia.

— Contact journalist Carolyn Muyskens at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens.

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