Fraga trial now in hands of jury
WORTHINGTON -- At 2:31 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the jury in the re-trial of Josue Fraga was sent into its chambers for deliberation.
The jury will be sequestered until a verdict is reached.
Following jury instructions early Wednesday, both the state and the defense had an opportunity to make closing statements.
Fraga is charged with five counts of murder in the death of his 2-year-old niece, Samantha. On the morning of March 20, 2008, Samantha died due to severe head injuries. She had bruises on her head, back and legs, her stomach was distended and her autopsy showed she had a two-inch rupture in her stomach. She had injuries and swelling to her genitals and a prolapsed rectum, including injuries two inches inside her anal canal.
At one point during the state’s closing arguments, Fraga fought to hold back tears. A person sitting behind the defense in the courtroom left to get a box of Kleenex for the defendant.
Fraga is charged with murder in the first degree while committing criminal sexual conduct; murder in the first degree while committing child abuse; murder in the first degree while committing domestic abuse; murder in the second degree while committing criminal sexual conduct; and murder in the second degree while committing assault in the first degree.
Judge David Christensen gave the jury of seven men and five women instructions leading into the morning.
“Consider all the evidence you have heard or seen in this trial,” Christensen said. “The defendant is presumed innocent. The burden of proving the guilt is on the state.”
And that’s what Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp tried to prove in his one hour, 40 minute closing statement.
Klumpp told a story to the jury -- a story of abuse, rape and torture. Klumpp said Fraga went into his children’s bedroom and got his daughter out of bed. He took her into the bedroom and tried to do things to her, Klumpp said.
“She summoned up the courage to say no to her father,” Klumpp said. “The price in denying that was that Samantha lost her life.”
Klumpp recalled the daughter’s testimony of how she was taped to a chair and forced to watch as her father allegedly assaulted Samantha. The daughter was let go and went back to bed.
“Eventually, Samantha went silent,” Klumpp said. “At that point, the defendant probably put her back to bed dead next to her brother.”
At 5:35 a.m., Fraga and his wife took Samantha to the hospital. The staff worked on her for nearly 45 minutes, but the resuscitative efforts failed and she was pronounced dead at 6:18 a.m.
As Klumpp was outlining each of the five counts of murder against Fraga -- three first degree and two second degree -- he showed pictures of Samantha’s body to the jury
“If that doesn’t constitute force or violence, nothing does,” Klumpp said.
Testimony from the doctor who performed the autopsy stated the time of Samantha’s death was between 9:50 p.m. and 1:50 a.m., Klumpp said, adding Fraga was the only adult in the house at that time. The best guess of Assistant Medical Examiner from Ramsey County, Victor Froloff, said his best guess on time of death was around midnight.
At that time, Fraga admitted to seeing Samantha. She woke up and wanted a drink of water. He gave her three glasses, something a “reasonable parent would do” if that child was being toilet trained, Klumpp said.
“The defendant knew something happened to Samantha around midnight and comes up with a story for that,” Klumpp said, adding the story about getting a drink would account if anyone had heard water running.
Now, Klumpp said, the defense was trying to throw Fraga’s son, Josue David “under the bus.” During earlier testimony, Josue David admitted to fondling Samantha, but denied penetrating her.
“Josue David doing that didn’t cause Samantha the kind of terror she felt at the hands of the defendant,” Klumpp said.
As Klumpp was finishing his closing statement, he walked in front of Fraga.
He pointed his finger at Fraga and asked the jury for a guilty verdict “because that’s what justice demands.”
Defense attorney Cecil Naatz then addressed the jury.
“What you’ve heard in the last week and a half is the tragic last months of a little girl named Miss Samantha Fraga,” Naatz said.
Samantha was born premature and had problems from birth, Naatz outlined, “and her life didn’t get any better.”
After her mother died, Samantha was placed with Josue and his wife.
“She began to be abused sexually,” Naatz said. “Not by Josue Fraga, but by her older 13-year-old cousin Josue David Fraga.”
The night before, when Samantha was being given a bath, she complained of her butt hurting.
“Of course it hurt,” Naatz said. “She was being sexually abused by Josue David.”
During the night, Naatz said, Josue David knew his father left to pick up his mother.
“That was a regular occurrence Josue David knows very well,” Naatz said. “He knows when there is another chance to get one of his little cousins alone to -- as he put it -- fulfill his sexual urges.”
When the police arrive at the Fraga’s trailer the next morning, Naatz said according to testimony, Josue David is anxious nervous and worried. The daughter, however, is calm and helpful, Naatz said.
“He knew what happened, it made him sick to his stomach,” Naatz said.
Naatz spent much of his time contradicting the statements the state had just presented. He told the jury to follow the fact and the “truth is what the facts and the evidence show it to be.”
“You’re not being asked to put the blame on anybody,” Naatz said. “The only question you have is to find Josue Fraga guilty or not guilty.”