Double murder trial postponed as defense alleges judge is biased

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Guam – Trial in the double murder of two men in Harmon has been postponed as the defense alleges that the judge assigned to the case is biased. But according to the judge herself, the defense is attempting to “judge shop.”

For nearly eight months, Joseph Sagdal has sat in jail waiting to be tried for the double murder of two men in Harmon. Sagdal, a shooting instructor, unloaded a clip on four men, killing two of them after they allegedly were involved in an altercation at Hemlani’s apartments last year.

His case is before Superior Court Judge Maria Cenzon. But that could change, because Sagdal’s attorney David Lujan is questioning the competency of the court to try the case, alleging that Judge Cenzon is “intimate friends” with Henry Alvendia, a key witness cross examined by Lujan in the federal case of Raymond Martinez and Juanita Moser.

Lujan states that Cenzon’s close relationship with Alvendia is documented in photographs and that Alvendia, Cenzon and her children are part of the same shooting federation, traveling abroad together for competitions. He believes that his vigorous cross examination of Alvendia has offended Cenzon because of her and her children’s long time relationship with Alvendia.

Since Sagdal’s pre-trial incarceration, Lujan has motioned the court to release his client on bail through the offering of a property valued at over $500,000. Lujan says that Cenzon is determined to hold Sagdal “hostage” as a way of “retaliating” against Lujan for his work in the federal case, saying that it has been thirteen days since the motion for bail was heard.

Judge Cenzon dismisses the allegations, calling them specious and asserted for the improper purpose of “judge shopping.”

“The assertion of a strong social relationship between the court and Alvendia is spurious at best and provides no basis in fact or law for the court’s lack of competency to preside over the instant case,” said Cenzon.

In short, Cenzon argues the allegations are based on fiction. She contends the court is doing its due diligence in reviewing the motion for release and has 90 days to issue a decision, further mentioning that Lujan is a majority shareholder of the property being offered for Sagdal’s release.

“The untimely filing of the objection, therefore, based upon baseless assertions of an illusion of a conflict appears to the court to be only for the purpose of judge shopping, it must therefore be overruled,” noted Cenzon.

The motion for recusal will be heard by Superior Court Judge Vernon Perez.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.