A federal judge is considering a new trial for a man convicted of murdering a woman on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation after defense attorneys accused the government of withholding evidence that could have helped his case.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Dimarzio Swade Sanchez spent more than two hours interrogating witnesses Thursday over a cellphone with a calendar entry that appeared to reference the brutal killing of Roylynn Rideshorse.
She died two months after being strangled, doused with gasoline and lit on fire in June 2016.
The calendar entry describes someone beating and kicking Rideshorse and expressing remorse for not telling the truth. It was brought to the attention of federal agents on Dec. 8, 2017 — the day after Sanchez was found guilty following a four-day jury trial.
The phone was allegedly bought and sold by several different individuals before a woman saw the message regarding Rideshorse and notified authorities.
Federal agents questioned by prosecutors during Thursday’s hearing said it was unknown when the calendar entry was created or who owned the phone at the time.
But Sanchez’s attorneys claim the entry contradicts testimony from several witnesses who implicated him, including two co-defendants who pleaded guilty to lesser charges. The defense also claims the government violated due process rules by waiting 91 days to turn over details on the phone.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters did not rule immediately on the request for a new trial.
The sentencing of the co-defendants in the case has been delayed pending Watters’ decision.
Sanchez’s brother, Frank, previously pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and Angelica Jo Whiteman pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree murder.