Editor's note: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call for help now. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a free service answered by trained staff 24 hours per day, every day. The number is 1-800-273-8255 or text 273TALK to 839863. The Oregon YouthLine is also available at 877-968-8491.
A Hillsboro man previously convicted of two charges related to his wife's shooting in 2019 has been acquitted of both charges following a retrial.
Jurors found Fidencio Diaz-Eguiza, 64, not guilty of second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon following a four-day trial, which concluded Friday, Aug. 6.
Diaz-Eguiza, who had previously been in custody at the Washington County Jail, will be released Friday as a result of the verdict, said Sgt. Danny DiPietro, spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
The case is among the first in Washington County Circuit Court to be impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year that non-unanimous jury verdicts are unconstitutional.
In February 2020, Diaz-Eguiza was found guilty of second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon for shooting his wife at their home near the Sunset Esplanade a year earlier. He was later sentenced to nearly six years in prison.
Prosecutors said the incident was a failed murder-suicide attempt. A family member reportedly disarmed Diaz-Eguiza after he shot his wife.
Diaz-Eguiza's wife was hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries.
Police didn't immediately find Diaz-Eguiza at the scene and shut down the area, sending police K-9 teams through neighborhoods and telling residents he should be considered armed and dangerous.
Diaz-Eguiza was discovered inside a cabinet in the home's garage several hours later while police conducted a search.
He was also charged with attempted murder, but jurors found him not guilty of the crime.
Additionally, the 2020 convictions were not unanimous. Jurors reached an 11-1 guilty verdict on the second-degree assault charge and a 10-2 guilty verdict on the unlawful use of a weapon charge.
At the time, Oregon was the only state in the country that still allowed non-unanimous jury verdicts. For all felony charges except murder, jurors could convict a defendant with 10 of 12 votes.
The month after Diaz-Eguiza's conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled non-unanimous jury verdicts were unconstitutional, ending the practice in Oregon.
Following the ruling, Diaz-Eguiza appealed his two convictions, citing the Supreme Court ruling. A retrial was granted by the Oregon State Court of Appeals.
Ahead of closing arguments Friday, Diaz-Eguiza appeared before the court in a suit and tie. A bailiff removed Diaz-Eguiza's hand and foot restraints before proceedings began. Two Spanish interpreters sat behind him, translating through a headset Diaz-Eguiza was wearing.
In his closing arguments, prosecutor John Gerhard asserted to jurors that Diaz-Eguiza knowingly and intentionally shot his wife.
He said that while Diaz-Eguiza may have been depressed, suicidal and had been drinking heavily in the days prior to shooting his wife, those factors didn't prevent him from making the decision to shoot his wife.
"This defendant made a choice," Gerhard said. "It is a choice he must be held accountable for."
Gerhard said Diaz-Eguiza had planned to murder his wife and then shoot himself because he had given up on life and wanted to bring his wife with him to the afterlife.
Before Diaz-Eguiza shot his wife, he reportedly said something to the effect of, "I told you when I was ready to leave, you would come with me," Gerhard said.
Prosecutors used the statement as evidence in Diaz-Eguiza's first trial, according to previous statements from the Washington County District Attorney's Office.
Gerhard also pointed to police finding only one additional round in the firearm Diaz-Eguiza used to shoot his wife, suggesting he loaded the weapon with the exact number of bullets needed to kill his wife and himself.
Diaz-Eguiza "chose to confront his wife, he chose to draw his weapon and he chose to shoot her," Gerhard said.
In his closing arguments, Cameron Taylor, Diaz-Eguiza's attorney, didn't dispute that Diaz-Eguiza shot his wife.
He instead argued that Diaz-Eguiza had only wanted to kill himself and that his gun discharged unintentionally, striking his wife as she struggled to remove the weapon from him.
Taylor asked jurors why Diaz-Eguiza, who had a happy marriage for more than 40 years prior to the incident, would want to kill his wife. There were no reports of domestic violence by Diaz-Eguiza before the incident, Taylor added.
He said prosecutors' argument that Diaz-Eguiza was scared of entering the afterlife alone was "a fun story, but there's no evidence to support it."
Taylor also told jurors that Diaz-Eguiza's mental state would have prevented him from being able to knowingly make the decision to shoot his wife.
Diaz-Eguiza's depression, heavy drinking, lack of food and adequate sleep caused him to be delusional and potentially psychotic, Taylor said.
"His thinking became disorganized, nonlinear and untethered to reality," Taylor said.
A doctor who reviewed statements made by Diaz-Eguiza during a psychological exam and testified during the trial stopped short of saying he was suffering from psychosis only because she didn't have enough evidence, Taylor said.
"The defendant never intended, never wanted to harm his wife," Taylor said.
In his rebuttal, Gerhard said Diaz-Eguiza's mental state didn't prevent him from being able to intentionally commit a crime.
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