The N.C. Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence for a Winston-Salem man convicted four years ago of beating his estranged wife, strangling her to death and then cutting off her head, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.
The ruling came down Friday in the case of Juan Carlos Rodriguez. In 2014, a Forsyth County jury found Rodriguez, 43, guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, and recommended the death penalty. He was accused of killing his wife, Maria Rodriguez, in November 2010. Her headless body was found in a wooded area in December 2010 and her skull was found in 2013.
In Friday’s ruling, the state Supreme Court upheld Rodriguez’s conviction but vacated his death sentence. The justices said that Judge Stuart Albright, who presided over the trial, should have submitted the statutory mitigating factor that, “the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was impaired.”
The court was split 5-2, with Chief Justice Mark Martin and Justice Paul M. Newby dissenting.