Casper Man Who Killed Mother-In-Law Claims Prosecutorial Misconduct
A Casper man convicted for murdering his mother-in-law in 2019 as in front of her daughter has filed an appeal with the state supreme court nearly a year after he was convicted of second-degree murder.
Anthony Rodriguez filed the appeal earlier this week.
In the appeal, Rodriguez's attorneys claim prosecutors made four statements — two in their opening statements and two in their closing arguments — that were "improper."
Rodriguez pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to a first-degree and felony murder charge. A jury returned a guilty verdict for second-degree murder after a five-day trial.
In his appeal, Rodriguez's attorneys argue that Assistant Natrona County District Attorney Mike Schafer was being argumentative when he mentioned that Fogle threatened Rodriguez with a pizza cutter.
"And, ladies and gentlemen, a pizza cutter in the hands of a woman that's five feet five inches tall, 160 pounds, compared to his 5'11", 190 pounds, isn't what I think you're going to have to defend yourself with," Schafer said during his opening statement.
Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey denied a motion for a mistrial, but he did acknowledge Schafer was being improper.
Later in the trial, Rodriguez took the stand and gave bizarre testimony. Throughout his testimony, Rodriguez claimed that his father-in-law took part in a "sex cult" in Colorado that produced incestual, pornographic videos. Rodriguez also testified that Schafer looked like his father-in-law and was, in fact, one of his father-in-law's personalities.
"I don't know if it's the reptilians," Rodriguez said while on the stand.
Giving his rebuttal during closing arguments, Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen suggested that Rodriguez should get an award for his acting.
"Ladies and gentlemen, he should get an Emmy," Itzen told jurors.
According to the appeal, Rodriguez claims that Itzen's statement was a direct attack on Rodriguez's personal character.
"The comment that Mr. Rodriguez should get an Emmy was not a comment on the evidence or reasonable inference that could be drawn from it," the appeal states. "The comment was, however, intended to inflame the jury and a statement from his personal opinion about the evidence. The comment amounted to the prosecutor's opinion of Mr. Rodriguez's veracity, which was entirely within the purview of the jury."
In another statement during closing arguments, Itzen told jurors that Rodriguez is guilty.
The appeal argues that Itzen acted improperly in directly stating Rodriguez was guilty. Instead, the appeal states, prosecutors only could argue that jurors should find Rodriguez guilty, but not that he was actually guilty.
A 'Very Disturbing' Murder
The trial last spring was the culmination of events that happened on November 17, 2019.
According to charging documents, Rodriguez and Mary Fogle — his mother-in-law — got into an argument over a mattress.
At some point, Rodriguez brutally beat Fogle to the point that she was unrecognizable.
Then, he retrieved a knife and stabbed and sliced her neck.
After the killing, Rodriguez and his wife, Allison Solis, fled to Colorado. Solis, who witnessed the killing, testified that she went with Rodriguez because she feared for her life.
Prosecutors and Solis claimed that Rodriguez raped Fogle as she lay dying, but jurors did not convict on that argument.