In July of 2011, Juan Guajardo Jr. was convicted of second-degree murder in the December 2010 death of Kevin Powell. Guajardo has maintained that he was acting in self-defense and protecting his family when the deadly shooting occurred. Guajardo’s attorneys appealed his conviction, which has now been upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Guajardo and Powell were living in the same home along with a 14-year-old boy, who allegedly became involved in an argument with Powell after accusing him of stealing his watch. After being accused, Powell allegedly began choking the boy. According to news reports, Powell weighed more than 300 pounds and was 6′ 6″ tall. When the altercation between Powell and the boy continued, Guajardo said in his testimony that Powell threatened to grab a gun from his room and kill everyone, however the boy said during his testimony that he did not hear Powell make the threat.
Testimony during the trial revealed that Powell went to his room and closed the door following the altercation with the boy. A short time later, Guajardo allegedly knocked on Powell’s door after grabbing his rifle, and fired the gun when Powell moved his hand. It was not clear whether Guajardo fired the gun before or after Powell opened the door. Guajardo testified that he did not aim for Powell, and that he did not remember pulling the trigger, that it all happened very fast.
There were several reasons the appellate judges upheld Guajardo’s conviction, one being that he testified that the shooting was accidental, because he did not believe his rifle was loaded when he retrieved it to go to Powell’s room. The judges wrote that, “Had Guajardo possessed a reasonable and honest belief that his life was in danger, he would not have brought what he thought was an unloaded rifle to Powell’s room to confront him.”
The judges also felt that sufficient time had passed between the altercation and Powell going to his room that Guajardo would not felt the need to grab a rifle for self-defense purposes.
Guajardo was sentenced to 27 to 42 years in prison by Saginaw County Circuit Judge Robert L. Kaczmarek; the earliest he may be released from prison is in December of 2037.
Michigan post-conviction defense lawyers know that there are circumstances in which innocent people are convicted of murder after protecting themselves in self-defense. Winning an appeal is not easy, but it does happen. Errors can be made in the criminal justice system, and because you have been convicted does not mean it is the end of the road.
If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, make certain you consult with a Michigan criminal appeals attorney with experience and a proven track record in this challenging area of the law.