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Published February 24, 2010, 10:56 PM

Appeal Process Starts in Grand Forks Double Murder Trial

A man convicted in June of murdering a Grand Forks father and son in 2001 is starting the appeal process by asking that the record reflect that the jurors could have seen him in leg shackles during the trial.

Billy Joe Aguero was convicted in June of killing Robert and Damien Belgarde with Joseph Moncada back in 2001. During the trial the men were allowed to wear normal clothes, but did have to be shackled at the ankles. Now... Aguero's appeal attorney is asking the court to show that the jurors could have seen the men's shackles.

Jason McCarthy: "Really what I think what they are attempting to do is add to the record, something that should have been handled way back last June, during the trial itself."

In a hearing today, Aguero testified that jurors saw or heard the shackles at least four different times and his attorney says the record should reflect that. But Assistant State's Attorney Jason McCarthy says legally its not permissible to add to the court record after the trial has ended.

Jason McCarthy: "We are not going to add to the record, the record was what was made and there was no objection made in trial and you can't come back and collaterally attack it."

McCarthy argued that there isn't any proof that any of the jurors did see either man's shackles, nor did they ever complain to anyone about the issue. He also said the constraints are legal under North Dakota law and that they were needed for the safety of the court.

Jason McCarthy: "The leg restraints were both reasonable and necessary, we had a number of witnesses who all expressed fear of the defendants and I doubt a lot of them would have honored the subpoena had they known Mr. Aguero was not in leg restraints."

Judge Jahnke will make a ruling on the case and then forward his findings to the North Dakota Supreme Court. The appeal briefs for both Moncada and Aguero are due next month.