Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Tuesday sentenced a Fort Hall man to 30 years in prison after a federal jury in Pocatello found him guilty of shooting and killing his cousin.
A jury on Jan. 6 found Demetrius Gomez guilty of second-degree murder.
Winmill also ordered Gomez to serve five years of supervised release after completing his prison term.
Gomez shot Tyrone “Moons” Diaz once in the head with a shotgun in May 2016, court records show. Fort Hall Police interviewed a woman who heard Gomez shoot Diaz. She told police Gomez was very intoxicated and angry with Diaz. Gomez told the 44-year-old Diaz he was going to shoot him, and shortly after the woman heard a loud bang. She did not see the shot but looked into the room of the home on B Avenue in Fort Hall and saw Diaz slumped over. Court records show Gomez had been drinking and using drugs for a week straight prior to the shooting.
When officers arrived they found a large amount of blood in the bathroom and on a bedroom door. The body was found in a shed outside the home.
Gomez had fled the scene but was arrested May 15 in Pocatello.
Following the three-day trial and the jury’s verdict, Gomez’s attorney Steven Richert claimed it was a mistrial and Gomez should be granted a new trial. Richert argued the prosecution introduced misleading evidence in the federal government’s opening and closing remarks. Richert said the prosecutor claimed Gomez shot the victim in the back of the head execution style.
Richert also argued the prosecution improperly vouched for the case and witnesses in the trial.
Winmill, in a memorandum decision posted Friday, ruled there was no mistrial, saying the prosecution never used the words “execution style,” but did claim Gomez shot the victim in the back of the head. Winmill wrote that despite the prosecutor claiming Gomez shot the victim in the back of the head in both opening and closing arguments it “did not overstate the evidence in a way that prejudiced Gomez.”
Evidence presented at the trial showed Diaz was shot below the ear in the neck area and that the gun was pressed against him at the time, court records show.
Winmill wrote that included in the jury instructions the court reminded jurors prior to deliberating that statements and arguments by attorneys are not to be considered evidence. Winmill wrote that this instruction was enough to correct any claim that the prosecutor vouched for a witness or the case.
Reporter Tom Hom can be reached at 208-542-6746.