Puerto Rico court orders new murder trial for judge's son

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The son of a federal judge convicted in 2014 of killing his wife in one of Puerto Rico’s most high-profile cases will get a new trial, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Puerto Rico’s appeals court issued the ruling based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that criminal trials require unanimous verdicts. The appeals court said going against that decision would mean that “the people of Puerto Rico would enjoy fewer rights than their fellow American citizens residing in any state of the Union.”

Pablo Casellas was charged with fatally shooting his wife, 46-year-old Carmen Paredes, at their home in a wealthy suburb of San Juan in June 2012 where they lived with their two children. She was shot several times, including in the forehead and chest.

Nearly two years later, a jury found the former insurance broker guilty on charges including first-degree murder and destroying evidence in an 11-1 verdict. He was sentenced to 109 years in prison.

Casellas blamed the killing on an unidentified intruder while authorities accused him of falsely claiming he was kidnapped and reporting that the weapon used in the crime was stolen.

In 2015, Casellas’ attorneys sought to have the ruling revoked, arguing that the requirement of unanimous verdicts in federal cases applied in Puerto Rico. An appeals court granted him a new trial, but that decision was overturned by Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court, which upheld a local law allowing guilty verdicts by a majority of nine of 12 jurors.

As a result of Wednesday’s ruling, a court has to hold a bond hearing for Casellas before Friday.

Casellas’ father is U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Casellas, a former Puerto Rico treasury secretary appointed to the federal bench in 1994.