Man fought to get Natasha McShane conviction overturned

Heriberto Viramontes found guilty of attempting to murder Irish student in Chicago

Heriberto Viramontes was found guilty last October of attempting to murder Natasha McShane (above) and her friend as they walked home from a night out in Chicago in 2010.

Heriberto Viramontes was found guilty last October of attempting to murder Natasha McShane (above) and her friend as they walked home from a night out in Chicago in 2010.

 

A man found guilty of the attempted murders of an Irish student and her friend fought for months to get his conviction overturned or a new trial, it has emerged ahead of his sentencing this week.

Heriberto Viramontes was found guilty last October of attempting to murder Natasha McShane and her friend as they walked home from a night out in Chicago in 2010.

His lawyers filed motions asking for either a fresh trial or that the verdict be overturned by Judge Jorge Alonso. These motions were unsuccessful but some of the arguments made will form the basis of an appeal to a higher court.

Viramontes, convicted also of armed robbery and aggravated battery of Miss McShane and Stacy Jurich, faces a sentence of up to 120 years, effectively life in prison, when sentenced on Thursday at the Cook County Criminal Courts building.

The 34-year-old struck the two young women across the backs of their heads. Ms McShane (27) from Silverbridge in Co Armagh, remains severely disabled, barely able to walk or talk after suffering massive injuries to her brain.

Miss Jurich, from Chicago’s southside, was less badly injured but still suffers from impaired vision, tremors in her hands, nightmares.

She was a key witness in the near two week trial that led to the conviction of Viramontes, describing the early morning attack as the two women walked beneath a bridge in the Bucktown neighbourhood.

The 28-year-old, a personal banker due to be married in October, keeps in touch with her friend via Skype every month or so. She will visit Ireland next Spring.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune newspaper, published on Sunday, Ms Jurich said: “I just want to see her and to put on a song and to be able to sing and dance again, whether she is in a wheelchair or not.

“I just want to see her and to let her know that I didn’t give up the fight. I just want her to know that I did not give up the fight. I never will.”

Based on the Skype calls, Ms Jurich believes Ms McShane remembers the attack and wants to speak about what she saw, but cannot.

“I know she saw me get hit and tried to run. Not run and get away but to try to save us both, to get help,” Miss Jurich told the Tribune.

“When she sees me there’s a light in her face, like: ‘Well you know,’ It’s like I’m the only one who knows. She wants to talk to me. She can’t figure out how.”

Before the attack, Miss McShane was on a six month student exchange trip, studying urban planning at the University of Illinois and working at Butch McGuire’s bar in the city’s downtown. .

Viramontes, and his public defender lawyers, filed motions for the verdict to be overturned or for a new trial, claiming the court made a series of errors that led to an unfair trial.

The reputed gang member claimed the court erred in allowing videos of Natasha McShane to be shown to the jury.

It showed the extent to which the one time UCD student still suffers from the injuries caused by the April 2010 attack.

But they were not true representations of the injuries she received “due to intervening acts.” After returning to Ireland, Miss McShane suffered an infection and seizures.

“The only reason for showing the video was to inflame the jury against Mr Viramontes,” the motion on his behalf, signed by three public defence lawyers, claimed.

Viramontes also alleged the court should have allowed the defence access to the medical records of Marcy Cruz, a co-defendant who drove the getaway van, a prosecution witness who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Her current and past mental health, and drug use, was relevant as it affected her credibility as a witness, it was argued

The lawyers also claimed the prosecution should not have been allowed to present inconclusive DNA evidence or be allowed to introduce a prior conviction had Viramontes testified,

On the two counts of attempted murder, the lawyers argued the judge should have directed the jury to acquit because “there was no intent to kill.”

Judge Alonso rejected the plea for a new trial or a reversal of the verdict without giving a written judgement.