Mobile County prosecutors blast judge’s decision to grant bail to convicted murderer

Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Prosecutors on Friday strongly objected to a judge’s decision to allow a convicted murder to remain free on bail even after a jury this week found him guilty.

After the prosecution and defense fired off competing court filings, Judge Edward McDermott did something prosecutors contend is highly unusual: He withdrew his adjudication of guilt. It does not change David Cordero-Hernandez’s legal position. He formally will be judged guilty at his sentencing hearing next month. But the ruling requires Mobile County Metro Jail to immediately release the defendant instead of forcing him to go through a bonding company to arrange a new bond.

The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office on Friday afternoon asked the judge to reconsider the decision, and Chief Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood said prosecutors may take the issue to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals if he does not.

“In this order withdrawing the adjudication of guilt, there’s no reason given, there’s no showing a manifest injustice, there’s no showing of any kind of new evidence,” he said. “There is only an order withdrawing that judgment and ordering the release of the defendant from Metro Jail. … “Practically speaking, it gets the defendant convicted of murder out of jail faster.”

McDermott is a retired judge who presided over the trial because full-time Mobile County Circuit Judge James Patterson has been suspended. McDermott could not be reached for comment.

Defense attorney Dom Soto took issue with the actions by prosecutors, who got another judge to issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest after McDermott had left the courthouse. He said prosecutors falsely suggested that the judge was required to hold a bond hearing before allowing the defendant to remain free on bail.

“May be the typical way that it’s done, but it’s not the law as we see it,” he said.

Soto said he and his client were on their way out of Government Plaza when an officer stopped them.

“As far as the law, we think it’s wrong, and how they sought to accomplish it was pretty sleazy,” he said.

The case stems from the death of Tracie Dennis in December 2019 amid a dispute over money that the defendants owed him. Prosecutors alleged that Cordero-Hernandez, 35, aided and abetted co-defendant Marcos Oslan, who pleaded guilty to murder last month and is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

“This was obviously the work of more than one person, and all of the evidence that we presented convinced this jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Cordero-Hernandez was every bit as culpable as the defendant Oslan,” Blackwood said.

What’s more, Blackwood said, there was evidence that the perpetrators took steps to mask the scent of decomposition to prevent the body from being discovered.

Prosecutors also charged Cordero-Hernandez with abuse of a corpse, but the judge dismissed that count before sending the case to the jury.

Blackwood Cordero-Hernandez is a risk to flee. He noted that the defendant is from Puerto Rico and does not speak English. He also pointed out that he went to Florida after Dennis died.

“This was a particularly violent case,” he said. “The victim was hog-tied. He was beat. He was stabbed multiple times. He was shot multiple times. He was buried in a back yard.”

But Soto said Oslan forced his client to go to Jacksonville. He pointed to multiple witnesses who testified that his client was not involved in the murder and argued that there are several significant appeal issues. He also said his client moved his mother from Puerto Rico to Mobile after his arrest. When she died, the attorney said, Cordero-Hernandez was not allowed to attend her funeral.

“He could have absconded at any point in the last three years,” he said.

Soto also objected to the insinuation that his client’s Puerto Rican birth makes him a fight risk, noting that it is part of the United States and that it is closer to Mobile than Oregon is.

“This guy is from Puerto Rico. And he’s been treated like he’s member of the M-13 from El Salvador,” he said.

A hearing had been scheduled for Friday morning so prosecutors could plead their case on bond, but McDermott canceled that Thursday night.

Prosecutors concede that state law gives judges the discretion to allow a defendant to remain free on bail if the minimum penalty is 20 years or less. Cordero-Hernandez faces a sentencing range of 20 years to life in prison.

But the District Attorney’s Office argued in a court filing that there is “no apparent legal or factual basis for the Court’s order withdrawing an adjudication of guilt.”


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