WAUKEGAN, Ill. (STMW) — Following somewhat of a rocky start Monday, the murder trial of Jose Horta of Waukegan, charged in connection with the July 2011 grisly torture murder of 27-year-old Waukegan resident David Campell, got under way.
The trial was to be heard by Lake County Circuit Court Judge George Bridges, but he announced Monday morning that he was transferring the case to Judge Mark Levitt, which brought an initial objection from defense attorney Robert Ritacca, the News-Sun is reporting.
“No, absolutely not. You heard all the (pretrial) motions,” Ritacca said.
But Ritacca relented, and rather than requesting a substitution of judges, agreed with moving the trial to Levitt’s courtroom.
Jury selection began late Monday morning with opening arguments in the trial scheduled for Tuesday morning. Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Newman is prosecuting the case.
Horta, 20, faces first-degree murder charges in the death of Campell, 27, who police say was lured by several attackers to a Waukegan body shop on July 5, 2011, tortured with a blowtorch, beaten with a hammer and strangled to death.
Authorities allege Horta held a gun on Campell during the attack and later dumped his body in Barrington Hills.
Horta faces a sentencing range of at least 20 to 60 years in prison if convicted.
A defense motion to quash Horta’s confession was denied by Bridges in October.
Ritacca had argued that prior to being taken into custody for questioning in the murder, a probation officer had advised Horta to cooperate with police, which Ritacca said implied a promise that he would be released if he cooperated.
Ritacca also said Horta and his relatives were told by police he would be home soon after the questioning, raised questions about Horta’s Miranda rights and argued his statement was given involuntarily.
Newman argued there was no evidence that a probation officer told Horta he should cooperate with police and said that even if it was said, it doesn’t rise to the level of a promise being made to the defendant.
Bridges agreed that there was no evidence any promises were made to Horta, and noted that videotape of his statements showed his Miranda rights being given and Horta responding to them.
The murder, according to authorities, resulted from a case of mistaken identity.
Horta, Roberto Guzman, 25, of Waukegan, Eric Castillo, 25, of Beach Park and Nadia Palacios, 23, of Waukegan had mistakenly targeted Campbell as one of three men who had kidnapped Guzman and sexually assaulted Palacios July 1, 2011, officials said.
Three masked assailants had previously kidnapped Guzman for drugs and money and sexually assaulted Palacios, who was with Guzman at the time, according to reports.
Palacios identified Campbell as her attacker because he wore shoes similar to those of her assailants, officials said, and Guzman arranged a fake drug deal to capture Campbell. Palacios and Castillo have each pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges.
Guzman pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a 29-year sentence for his role in the crime.
Prior to being sentenced under the negotiated plea, Guzman admitted that he helped set the murder up, but claimed he was at his mother’s house when Campbell was being murdered.
Police said Palacios also confessed to the murder, eventually leading to the arrests of the other defendants.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)