Mistrial declared in Riverside Park murder case
Court • Testimony “tainted the jury,” defense attorney says.
Published: October 24, 2012 02:31PM
Updated: February 7, 2013 11:31PM
image
Francisco Alverez, 56, is on trial for muder in the shooting death a man at Riverside Park in Salt Lake City in 2011. Courtesy Salt Lake County jail.

A mistrial has been declared in the case against a man accused of deadly Riverside Park shooting last year.

Francisco Alverez’s murder trial got under way Monday, but was derailed a day later when the man’s attorneys requested and were granted a mistrial.

“Some testimony came out that tainted the jury,” defense attorney Rob Engar said. “So we felt we had to move for a mistrial and the judge granted.”

A hearing has been set for Nov. 5 to schedule a new trial.

Alverez, 56, faces a charge of first-degree felony murder in connection with the May 2011 death of 29-year-old Jorge Veracruz.

Monday, on the first day of Alverez’s trial in 3rd District Court, a defense attorney said Alverez was protecting himself from a perceived threat.

Alverez and Veracruz were part of a group who were hanging out and drinking in Riverside Park, 700 N. 1400 West, on the evening of May 5, 2011.

The two men began arguing with each other and soon there was talk of fighting, said prosecutor Bradford Cooley. Alverez made mention of the .22-caliber semiautomatic gun he was carrying and Veracruz walked away.

But as the man walked down a path along the Jordan River, the prosecutor said, Alverez fired at least three shots.

One shot struck Veracruz in the back of the right arm. A second went into the right side of his back. A third shot hit the left side of Veracruz’s back, piercing his spleen, stomach and aorta before stopping in his lung.

Alverez’s defense attorney said the man believed Veracruz was going to rob him and fired only when he saw the man reaching for something in a bag.

“Frank didn’t know Jorge. He could have been reaching for anything. … Frank was afraid for his life. He was afraid for his safety,” defense attorney Adam Alba said. “He acted only to protect himself, and he was justified.”

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk