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New trial ordered for 1 of 2 brothers in 1998 York slayings

Written by The Associated Press | Mar 12, 2019 2:24 PM
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People walk by the Pennsylvania Judicial Center Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This story has been updated.

(York) -- A missing word in jury instructions has prompted a judge to order a new trial in the case of one of two brothers originally sentenced to death in a double murder two decades ago.

A judge used the word "guilty" rather than "not guilty" in the trial of Noel Montalvo, who was convicted of first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy and burglary, The York Daily Record reported.

Common Pleas Judge Michael Bortner wrote in an 80-page opinion dated Feb. 11 that the statement was "clearly a simple example of a jurist misspeaking during the lengthy process of instructing a jury," but he said he was compelled to grant the defendant a new trial.

"We recognize the momentous import of this finding," wrote Bortner. He also found several errors that warranted a new penalty phase, including his trial attorney acknowledging that he "really did not prepare for the penalty phase."

Defense attorney Jeff Marshall said he expects prosecutors to appeal. He said "everything in this case seems to say Noel was not there." Joe Grace, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, said officials would "review the judge's ruling carefully."

Now-54-year-old Montalvo and his older brother Milton Montalvo were convicted of murder in the April 1998 slayings of Milton's former girlfriend, 44-year-old Miriam Asencio, and 37-year-old Manual Ramirez Santana.

A judge in 2017 threw out the death penalty against now-56-year-old Milton Montalvo and ordered a new sentencing hearing but rejected a defense bid for a new trial. The case is on appeal before the state Supreme Court.

 

An earlier version of this story appears below.

(York) -- A missing word in jury instructions has prompted a judge to order a new trial in the case of one of two brothers originally sentenced to death in a double murder two decades ago.

The York Daily Record reports that a judge used the word "guilty" rather than "not guilty" in the trial of Noel Montalvo, who was convicted of first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy and burglary.

Common Pleas Judge Michael Bortner wrote Feb. 11 that it was clearly the judge "misspeaking" but he was compelled to grant now-54-year-old Montalvo a new trial. Defense attorney Jeff Marshall says he expects prosecutors to appeal.

In 2017, a judge threw out the death penalty against 56-year-old Milton Montalvo in the 1998 slayings. The case is on appeal before the state Supreme Court.

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