Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Gascón ‘very disappointed’ in Diaz manslaughter verdict

District Attorney George Gascon (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

District Attorney George Gascón  (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Thursday (August 28) that he’s “very disappointed” that the man who’d been accused of intentionally choking to death another man in Buena Vista Park in 2011 was convicted of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder this week.

“We put a lot of effort into the case,” Gascón told the Bay Area Reporter at an editorial board meeting Thursday. “We would not have charged the case as murder unless we believed it was murder.”

Jurors announced Tuesday, August 26 that they’d found David Munoz Diaz, 25, guilty on the manslaughter charge, as well as arson, mutilating human remains, and destroying evidence in the death of Freddy Canul-Arguello. Canul-Arguello’s charred, mostly naked body was found near a melted recycling bin in the park June 10, 2011.

Gascón said prosecutors are “trying to assess what else we could have done” to have gotten a murder conviction. Some jurors said after the verdict was announced that they hadn’t been convinced that Diaz had intended to kill Canul-Arguello, so they’d passed on a first-degree murder conviction. The jury also didn’t convict him of second-degree murder, another option, because they didn’t feel Diaz had shown conscious disregard for Canul-Arguello’s life, some jurors said Tuesday.

Gascón said his office had assigned one of its top prosecutors – Assistant District Attorney Danielle Douglas – to the case, and police had done a “good investigation.”

However, Gascón also didn’t want to criticize the jurors.

“They did their work and we respect them and thank them for it,” he said.

During the trial, Diaz testified that he’d accidentally killed Canul-Arguello during a sexual encounter in the park.

“We will ask for the maximum sentence,” Gascón said, but “the consequences are not the consequences we were seeking. Looking at his time served, he could be very well almost ready to walk.”

Diaz has been in jail since his arrest more than three years ago in July 2011.
The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is four years. However, Diaz may be sentenced to less time than that, according to Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien. Among the factors in the time he could serve, Diaz may be able to serve time concurrently for the other convictions.

“He’s likely done all the time they could sentence him to,” Lilien has said.

Diaz’s next court date is September 3, when Lilien will ask that he be released before his sentencing.

Lilien has repeatedly referred to Canul-Arguello’s death as “a terrible accident,” while Douglas insisted that Diaz had strangled him after flying into a rage.

Diaz had moved in with Larry Metzger, owner of the Castro bar The Mix, shortly before he killed Canul-Arguello and during his testimony referred to Metzger, who regularly attended the trial, as his partner.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 28, 2014 @ 3:38 pm PST
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