LEXINGTON, Kentucky — A federal appellate panel has ordered a new trial and reversed a couple’s drug convictions partly because a prosecutor cited their beliefs in a religious figure regarded as the patron saint of drug dealers and as the angel of the poor.
According to the Courier Journal , an opinion this week by a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel said the attacks regarding beliefs in “Jesús Malverde” were “utterly irrelevant to the question of guilt.”
The opinion says Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger West likely used Luis Morales-Montanez’s beliefs to paint him as someone steeped in drug culture. Morales-Montanez and Jessica Acosta were convicted in Eastern Kentucky federal court of distributing $20,000 worth of methamphetamine.
West and a U.S. attorney’s office spokesman didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.