Man cleared in girlfriend’s death after 4 trials
CHICAGO (AP) — Sixteen years and four trials after his girlfriend died of a gunshot wound in their apartment, Cesar “Tony” Munoz has been acquitted of murder and is trying to rebuild relationships with his daughters.
The 37-year-old Chicago man’s attorney told the Chicago Sun-Times (http://tinyurl.com/kya2lll) that it’s the first time in the state’s history that a defendant was acquitted after four separate trials.
Munoz spent eight years in prison for the shooting death of 21-year-old Magdaliz “Maggie” Rosaria, who was his girlfriend and the mother of his two daughters. Munoz always contended he found Rosaria in the bedroom bleeding from a massive head wound after hearing a gunshot.
A hung jury ended his first trial in 2000. Munoz was convicted in two subsequent trials after prosecutors alleged Munoz shot Rosaria during a jealous argument.
So, when a Cook County judge declared him not guilty in a fourth trial last Wednesday, Munoz had to check with his lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, to make sure he heard correctly.
“There’s a part of you that’s been put on hold,” Munoz said. “Just knowing that my life is not on pause no more, it’s something big to think about. But I’m going to go through this storm just like I went through that storm.”
An appellate court ruled in 2010 that improper testimony had been allowed against Munoz from a Chicago police investigator and from another man with whom Rosaria had become romantically involved.
Not only did Munoz opt for a bench trial on his fourth time in court, he chose not to testify — as he had in previous trials — that Rosaria, who had been depressed after the birth of their second baby, had committed suicide.
“His story never changed that she shot herself,” Zellner said.
Tests were inconclusive regarding gunshot residue on Munoz’s hands, but there was residue on Rosaria’s left hand. And Munoz’s blue shirt had two large blood spots where he cradled the victim. But there was no other blood evidence showing he had been near Rosaria at the time of the shooting.
Munoz said he wants to rebuild his relationships with his daughters, now teenagers in the care of Rosaria’s relatives. He said he’s had no contact with his younger daughter and only occasionally exchanges text messages with the elder one.
He also has a 7-year-old son whom he fathered during a brief marriage while he was free on bond after his first conviction was reversed.
Munoz is working for a construction business and says he wants to work with anti-violence groups.
Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index