Jury finds Anthony Flores not guilty of murder - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Jury finds Anthony Flores not guilty of murder

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - For nearly twelve years Anthony Chargualaf Flores has been sitting in a jail cell, accused of murder. Several years ago he was convicted for the 1999 death of Sherri Lea Taylor at the Hamilton Hotel, but a reversal of the conviction by Guam's Supreme Court gave him a new trial. Jurors returned their verdict this morning after less than two full days of deliberation, returning a not guilty verdict and giving Flores a new lease on life.

Once faced with a sentence of life behind bars, Flores is a now free man after a Superior Court jury found him not guilty of murder. "I'm shocked and happy," he told KUAM News in an exclusive interview. When asked if he was surprised at the verdict, Flores responded, "Yes, yes. I'm proud. I'm happy for my people to acquit me, 'cause I was falsely accused, you know."

Flores attempted to contain his excitement this morning after the verdict was read, but couldn't help but say "Si yu'us ma'ase" several times as jurors exited the courtroom as he smiled and bowed grateful for their verdict. Dressed in a white shirt and jeans, Flores was released from the Department of Corrections in Mangilao this afternoon - a place he's had to call home for more than a decade.

"I'm not sure," he continued about his emotions. "Right now, like I said I'm shocked, culture shock, you know? Twelve years, it's a long time."

Flores carried his belongings to the Visitors Center, where he contacted his sister to pick him up - no longer a defendant, but a free man. He said of his immediate plans, "Just work my way in paying back the community, because the community found me not guilty of this crime. So you know, I'm just happy."

Asked if he planned to return, he replied, "No, I'm too old, man. Too old. I'm not coming back."

Defense Attorney Randy Cunliffe said he was glad the jury did their job in reviewing the facts of the case, adding he believes justice has been done. "Obviously, the evidence that was presented has always been very weak, we thought. The fact that all the medical doctors disagreed with [Medical Examiner Dr. Aurelio] Espinola's determination the fact that he didn't properly document the injuries that he claims he saw, so nobody else could look at them makes it difficult to say he's correct," the lawyer said.

Cunliffe continued, "There's a lot to think about in this case. As I told them in my opening statement, you have to decide whether he was even in that room that night and if you find that, but then you have to decide what caused her death. And so they spent a lot of time in deliberating and that's what you hope juries will do."

Chief Prosecutor Basil O'mallan expressed disappointment with today's verdict, but said he understood it was a difficult case and the prosecution did the best they could to make the case against Flores. "I understand where they came from. We knew when we brought this case forward it's been twelve years many of my witnesses have died, many have left island and those who are here have forgotten a lot, so we knew it was very difficult going forward. But we still believed a crime had been committed and that's why we brought the case forward and submitted it to the jury," he said.

Jurors told attorneys after the verdict was read that there were just too many gaps in the case to reach a decision other than an acquittal. And for Flores, he couldn't have asked for anything more as the murder charge has been cleared from his record.

"Hopefully," speculated Cunliffe of his client, "he'll have a good future ahead of him."

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