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updated: 5/28/2014 4:15 PM

Willowbrook man wants new murder trial

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  • Juan Cuellar

      Juan Cuellar

 
 

A 25-year-old Willowbrook man facing life in prison for the 2012 shooting death of 18-year-old Joshua Holmes wants a new trial.

Attorneys for Juan Cuellar, of the 10S700 block of Lilac Lane, filed a motion Wednesday requesting a new trial in an effort to overturn the April 29 guilty verdict of two counts of first-degree murder.

Cuellar's attorney, Paul DeLuca, said he is challenging the conviction on several matters.

First among them, he said, is that Judge Daniel Guerin refused to give jurors specific instructions he believes should have been tendered before deliberations began.

Second, he said, is that Guerin prevented DeLuca from using two, large poster boards that broke down the difference between first- and second-degree murder and self-defense during closing arguments.

"And, ultimately, I don't think the state proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (Cuellar) is guilty of first -degree murder," DeLuca said outside court.

Cuellar testified during the four-day trial that on Sept. 24, 2012, the day he shot Holmes, he feared for his safety and that of his mother and younger brother.

Earlier in the month, Cuellar's younger brother, Christopher Hernandez, paid Holmes $90 for marijuana, but weeks went by and Holmes never delivered.

After a Sept. 6 confrontation in which Hernandez and an armed Cuellar unsuccessfully tried to collect the money from Holmes, prosecutors said Cuellar went looking for Holmes on Sept. 24. And when he found him, he shot him.

Cuellar testified during his trial that he fired six shots at Holmes after Cuellar believed Holmes was about to pull his own gun.

A forensic pathologist testified last week that Holmes was shot four times from behind and once in the arm. There was never any evidence of Holmes being armed when he was shot.

Cuellar testified that, following the shooting, he concocted a plan, along with Hernandez, his ex-girlfriend, his mother and others, to disassemble the handgun, shave off any serial numbers and dump the gun in the Fox River in St. Charles. Cuellar then went into hiding and was eventually found in his father's basement in Gilberts.

Cuellar's mother, Elva Hernandez, 43, also of Willowbrook, was sentenced last April to two years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of obstruction of justice.

Guerin will rule on DeLuca's motion for a new trial at 9 a.m. July 1. If the motion is denied, Cuellar will be sentenced immediately.

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