The state Court of Appeals has overturned the most serious conviction against Stephen Casaus, the man serving time for the death of his 9-year-old stepson Omaree Varela.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s office says prosecutors plan to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
Casaus is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for his role in the boy’s 2013 death. Among other charges, he was convicted of child abuse resulting in death, which came with 18 years in prison by itself.
A jury found that while he didn’t actually beat the boy, he was responsible for not stopping it or calling 911 to get Omaree medical attention.
Now, the state Court of Appeals has voided the conviction of that count, agreeing with Casaus’ attorney that the state did not offer sufficient evidence that medical neglect was a significant cause of Omaree’s death.
In the court’s opinion, the state must prove that if a defendant had gotten medical care, then the child would have lived or would have had a better chance of living.
The court of appeals concluded prosecutors did not prove that, reversing the conviction.
That means 18 years will be shaved off of his conviction unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s office sent KRQE News 13 this statement Friday:
“Attorney General Balderas is committed to fighting to protect children and that includes achieving justice for Omaree Varela’s tragic death. The Office of the Attorney General is pleased that the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld Defendant’s convictions for child abuse not resulting in death, tampering with evidence and two counts of bribery or intimidation of a witness, but we will be asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to exercise its discretion to overturn the New Mexico Court of Appeals’ decision to reverse Defendant’s conviction for child abuse resulting in death.”
If the justices don’t rule against the Court of Appeals, the District Attorney’s office will not have a second chance to try the Casaus on the charge.
His remaining convictions were affirmed by the court, which amount to 12 years in prison.