A judge Friday denied a motion for a new trial for Jose Ulisses Duran, 18 months after he was convicted of strangling 11-year-old Doris Castro and dumping her body in a canal near Newman.
Duran, 23, of Gustine likely will be sent to prison for 25 years to life after a June 20 sentencing hearing in which Doris' family will be able to address a man they once trusted and invited into their home.
After a two-month trial in Stanislaus County Superior Court, 12 jurors said Duran was guilty of murdering the sixth-grader, strangling her while they sat in his car, then using a belt that his uncle gave him to lower her unconscious body into a murky irrigation canal.
Prosecutors argued that Duran killed Doris on Dec. 1, 2004, to keep her from telling her family about a kiss they shared less than three weeks earlier. The secret could have destroyed Duran's relationship with Doris' older sister, Cristal, who was 16 at the time and pregnant with his child.
"Only the defendant knows that all of this information is going to come out if Doris survives to make it home and tell her parents," Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo said as he argued against a new trial.
Deputy Public Defenders Graylin Bryant and Donnell Snipes argued that Duran deserves a new trial because the judge let Cristal Castro tell the jury about an alleged rape by Duran that she did not report until after her sister was dead and her former boyfriend was in custody.
The defense said the uncorroborated incident was prejudicial, but prosecutors suggested Duran used the same tactics with both young women, noting that Doris Castro's pants were unbuttoned when her body was found.
Judge Loretta Murphy Begen said Cristal Castro's testimony was properly used to show Duran's motive and intent.
The defense also argued that the fall 2006 trial was tainted by testimony from former sheriff's deputy Michael Galvan, who acted as a Spanish translator during the early hours of the investigation. Shortly after the verdict was in, Galvan was charged with rape and misappropriation of public money.
The judge said Galvan's role was so small that allegations against him, which were under investigation during the trial, would not have changed the outcome in Duran's case. Galvan recently pleaded no contest to assault under the color of authority and embezzlement in exchange for a 16-month sentence.
A third prong of the defense argument, that Duran was denied a fair trial because his attorneys were not allowed to question a doctor who lived near the crime scene and engaged the services of a prostitute the night Doris was killed, was summarily denied.
The judge said the doctor's testimony was properly excluded because nothing linked him to Doris' murder.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2338.