A defense attorney asked the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday to order a new trial for a man convicted of killing and raping an El Dorado teenager who led a secret life as an Internet porn model, arguing some evidence suggests he was too drunk to have intended to kill her.
The high court heard the appeal of Israel Mireles, who was convicted of capital murder but sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in the November 2007 stabbing and strangulation of Emily Sander. The 18-year-old Butler County Community College student was killed in an El Dorado motel room that Mireles had been staying in while working.
The two met at a bar hours before Sander's death and went to the motel room.
The slaying received national attention because it was later revealed that Sander also was known on the Internet as model Zoey Zane. Mireles, who was 24 at the time of the killing, fled to Mexico, and officials there agreed to return him to the U.S. only if prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty in Butler County District Court.
Debra Wilson, a capital appellate defender, argued that the judge presiding over Mireles' trial in 2009 erred by not specifically instructing jurors they could determine the murder wasn't premeditated and convict him of the lesser crime of felony murder, or killing during another felony. Wilson said Mireles and Sander were seen together in public by numerous people and jurors could have concluded he was too intoxicated to form the intent to kill.
"Mr. Mireles, certainly when he went out that evening, did not have the intention of killing anyone," Wilson told the Supreme Court. "He spent the entire evening basically calling attention to himself."
But Kristafer Ailslieger, a deputy state solicitor general, noted that Sander suffered two deep stab wounds and was strangled with two phone cords — strong evidence of a conscious decision to kill.
"There is just no possibility at all that the jury could have returned a different verdict," Ailsleiger argued.
The court did not say when it would issue a ruling.
Another legal issue in the case is whether jurors should have seen grisly photos from the autopsy on Sander. Justice Lee Johnson questioned whether showing them was necessary.
"This is certainly pushing the envelope in my estimation," Johnson said from the bench.