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27medrano appeal/md

Post-Bulletin staff and wire report

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s highest court rejected on Thursday an appeal from a convicted murderer from Rochester who claimed he was denied his right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

The state Supreme Court ruled that Hector Manuel Medrano went ahead and confessed even though a Dodge County sheriff’s deputy gave him four chances to wait until an attorney could be found.

Medrano is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of first-degree murder in the March 20, 2005, stabbing and strangling of Jose Tapia Gallegos, 50, in Dodge Center. Gallegos’ nephew, Salvador Gallegos, was also convicted of first-degree murder.

Medrano’s appeal argued that the confession should have been thrown out because the Miranda warning from Chief Deputy James Trihey didn’t make it clear that Medrano had the right to a lawyer before and during questioning. He wanted a new trial.

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The court denied that, saying Trihey’s warning was "constitutionally sufficient."

The ruling says when Medrano asked for an attorney on a Sunday evening, Trihey told him he was unlikely to get one until the next day and could stop the questioning until then.

During Medrano’s trial, jurors watched a videotaped confession from Medrano when his murder trial opened in February 2007 in the Rice County courthouse in Faribault where the trial was moved because of pre-trial publicity.

In the video, the Rochester man is handcuffed and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He is sitting on a couch and quietly describing how he and Salvador Gallegos killed Salvador Gallegos’ uncle, Jose Tapia Gallegos.

Medrano and Salvador Gallegos killed his uncle in his Dodge Center home and stashed the body in the home’s basement for two weeks. The victim’s body was discovered April 14, 2005, in a Goodhue County field.

Chief Justice Eric Magnuson did not participate in the case, which was argued before he was sworn in.

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