Murder conviction upheld in 2009 killing outside nightclub

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld a man’s conviction Wednesday in a 2009 deadly shooting outside a Broad Street nightclub.

Jesus Danilo Fuentes was convicted and ordered to serve two consecutive life sentences for shooting and killing Henry Vargas. It happened early in the morning of November 6, 2009. Following the shooting, Fuentes fled to the Dominican Republic but was found and arrested five months later and extradited back to Rhode Island.

In June 2011, Fuentes faced a jury trial with, as the Supreme Court wrote in its decision Wednesday, testimony from 17 prosecution witnesses and five defense witnesses.

After the jury returned a verdict of guilty, Fuentes appealed the conviction because the trial judge “refused to give an eyewitness identification jury instruction,” a rule which dates back to a 2004 case precedent. The state Supreme Court disagreed with the contention that not giving the instruction to the jury was in error.

In reviewing the proceedings of Fuentes’s case, the court said a judge must instruct, or brief, the jury on the law that the state alleges was broken, or other issues raised by plaintiff or defendant. “A defendant may request that the trial justice include particular language in the jury instructions, [but] the trial justice is not required to use any specific words or phrases when instructing the jury — so long as the instructions actually given adequately cover the law,” Judge William P. Robinson III cited from a 2010 case in the court’s decision. Reversing a conviction is only warranted if it can be shown that an instruction to the jury could have caused prejudice in favor of the plaintiff.