Delaware court rejects appeal in Bear nightclub hit-and-run murder case

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Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware's Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a New Jersey man sentenced to life in prison after deliberately and fatally striking another man with a car outside a restaurant.

The court on Thursday rejected Elder Saavedra's arguments that his first-degree murder conviction should be overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct and a judge's erroneous admission of evidence at trial.

Saavedra's primary challenge involved a police witness narrative testimony as the prosecution played several video surveillance clips of the incident outside El Nuevo Rodeo restaurant in Bear in March 2017.

Saavedra claimed that the prosecution used the officer's narration as a way to admit improper identification testimony and otherwise inadmissible hearsay.

He also argued that the judge wrongly allowed another officer to offer lay opinion testimony regarding the meaning of a Spanish phrase that a witness heard Saavedra utter at the scene. The officer testified that "la migra," or "immigration," is a catch-phrase often used in the Hispanic community suggesting that everybody who hears it should scatter.

Saavedra also claimed that a prosecutor improperly asked a question implying that a witness had identified Saavedra during a pretrial interview, after the witness had denied doing so.

The Supreme Court said that while Saavedra has raised some legitimate concerns regarding the officer's testimony regarding the video evidence, it did not amount to prosecutorial misconduct.

The court also said the other actions Saavedra complained about did not affect the fairness of his trial.

Saavedra was convicted in 2018 in the death of 23-year-old Lester Mateo of Penns Grove, New Jersey.

Authorities say Saavedra was escorted out of the restaurant after fighting with friends of Mateo, then took the SUV that Mateo had just parked with the engine running, chased him down and struck him, pinning him against another vehicle. Mateo was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Saavedra was being held in Pennsylvania on an immigration detainer when Delaware authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.



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