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Lancaster man will not receive sentence relief for 2002 murder

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LANCASTER, Pa.– A Lancaster man will get no relief from his life sentence for a 2002 murder after an appellate court denied his claim that trial witnesses were swayed by secret guilty-plea deals.

Ricardo Morales, 38, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life plus 10-20 years in prison after killing 22-year-old Shalimar Espinosa and injuring Espinosa’s brother during an attempted drug robbery in Lancaster City. Co-defendants, Roberto Colon,Lazarus DeJesus, Angel Bermudez and Angel Martinez attempted to rob the brothers on April 30, 2002 at Walnut and Nevin Streets. The Espinosa brothers were shot as they tried to run away,

Recently, Morales filed for sentence relief with the argument that three of his co-defendants who testified against him had plea arrangements with prosecutors prior to trial.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Morales’ request is much too late, and that he was required to file an appeal within a year of his conviction coming final, unless there was a discovery that could have impacted the verdict.

The court ruled that no such evidence has been found.

Prosecutors testified at a previous hearing that the co-defendants’ testimony would be considered while resolving their cases, but there were no specifics or deals discussed prior to Morales’ trial.

Colon was convicted of second-degree murder, and is also serving life plus an additional 18-40 years.

Three co-defendants pleaded guilty to third-degree murder; Lazarus DeJesus was sentenced to 9 to 18 years, while Angel Bermudez and Angel Martinez received 12½-to-25-year terms.