The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday, April 15, dismissed claims of ineffective counsel and other unfair trial practices in the case of a fatal shooting at Tadmore Park in Gainesville on Father’s Day 2013.
Saul Castillo-Velasquez was first sentenced in August 2015 to life in prison without the chance of parole after he pleaded guilty to malice murder in the death of Silverio Acosta.
According to court testimony, on June 16, 2013, during a soccer match at Tadmore Park in Gainesville, Castillo-Velazquez ran toward Acosta, asking, “Do you remember me?”
He then fired five shots into Acosta’s chest, head and hand while Acosta’s family members looked on.
Castillo-Velasquez claimed that Acosta had killed his father in El Salvador three decades earlier.
Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin allowed his plea to be withdrawn after his attorney retrieved New York medical records detailing a history of mental illness, and he was tried again in 2017.
At trial, prosecutors entered evidence of Castillo-Velasquez’s arrest for shooting at three men in New York City to show a pattern of criminal behavior.
Castillo-Velazquez claimed that mental illness had deluded him into believing he was acting in self-defense in that incident, and that the evidence should be inadmissible.
“We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion” by introducing the evidence, the state Supreme Court ruled April 15.
Castillo-Velasquez also appealed to the Supreme Court that Acosta’s bloody clothes should not have been admitted as evidence due to unfair prejudice, but he did not object at the time of the trial.
That claim was dismissed, the Supreme Court unanimously held, because Castillo-Velasquez could not show it affected the outcome of the trial in a biased way.
Castillo-Velasquez’s petition that he was provided ineffective counsel hinged on his claim that substantial corroborating testimony or evidence about his mental illness was not introduced on his behalf.
But the court was firm in its judgment that Castillo-Velasquez was given fair representation.
“We conclude that his claims have no merit,” the court states.