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David Bueso

Other Louisiana homicide exonerations
On August 5, 2017, 22-year-old Tercero Jhoel Brisuela was found bludgeoned to death in his apartment in Broussard Plaza Apartments on Coy Avenue in the Gardere area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Police began looking for his roommate, 19-year-old David Bueso, after a witness said that Bueso was the last person to be with Brisuela. Both men were Honduran immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally.

On Saturday, August 6, police located Bueso in the parking lot of the apartment complex and questioned him. He denied harming Brisuela. Police discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for Bueso’s arrest for burglary. While police were booking him, they told him they saw blood on his boots.

His clothing and shoes were confiscated and sent to the crime lab. DNA tests were performed and identified a few specks of blood on his pants as Brisuela’s blood. The crime lab found no blood on his boots.

Meanwhile, in the apartment, police found a machete and a bottle of bleach. While neither Bueso’s nor Brisuela’s blood was found on the machete, both of their DNA was found on the bleach bottle.

Bueso was arrested for the murder of Brisuela on August 10, 2017. He was charged with second-degree murder.

In February 2019, Bueso went to trial in East Baton Rouge Parish District Court. Assistant District Attorney Morgan Johnson told jurors in her opening statement that Brisuela was ambushed in his sleep in his bedroom. Johnson played a grisly crime scene video for jurors that showed Brisuela’s body partially on his mattress with his head split open. Blood was splattered on the walls. The video showed the bleach bottle and the machete.

The crime scene video was recorded by East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Clifton Street, who said Brisuela’s skull was visibly split open. Street testified that he believed Bueso wiped the machete down with the bleach, preventing the discovery of any DNA material on the suspected murder weapon.

The prosecution contended that Bueso, who was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds, fatally beat Brisuela, who was 5 feet 8½ inches tall and weighed 191 pounds, with the plastic handle of the machete.

A metal baseball bat also was found in the bedroom, but Street said the bat wasn't swabbed for possible DNA evidence because the machete was considered the only weapon used in the attack. He said no blood or skin was detected on the bat.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office concluded that Brisuela died of blunt-force injuries to the head. He suffered skull fractures and bruises of the brain.

The prosecution also presented evidence that DNA tests showed that Brisuela’s blood was found on Bueso’s pants. The prosecutor told the jury that Bueso was jobless and that Brisuela had threatened to kick him out of their apartment because he was not paying his share of the rent. She said the murder was a “cowardly attack.”

The prosecution also played a recording of a police interview with Bueso during which he said he was picked up by his girlfriend after the murder and said that he knew nothing about anything happening to Brisuela.

Bueso’s defense attorney argued that the two were friends and were not fighting about the rent.

On February 12, 2019, the jury voted 11 to 1 to convict Bueso of second-degree murder. In April 2019, just four days before Bueso was scheduled to be sentenced, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling in a death penalty case from East Baton Rouge Parish. The court held that the exclusion of people under the age of 26 from the pool of prospective jurors—no one born after 1993 had been added to the roll of potential jurors—and the failure to include people who moved there since 2011 resulted in an “improperly constituted” jury pool.

Lawyers Kyla Blanchard-Romanach and Ashley Chandler, who began representing Bueso after the conviction, argued, "Mr. Bueso was denied a trial before a fair cross-section of the community and should be granted a new trial.”

That motion was denied. At his sentencing hearing, Bueso, who did not testify at his trial, insisted that he and Brisuela were the victims of an armed robbery inside the apartment.

“I'm a victim, too,” Bueso said. He denied killing his “best friend.” He said he regretted not taking the witness stand to tell the jury his account of the events.

District Judge Richard Anderson sentenced Bueso to life in prison without parole.

In April 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that non-unanimous jury verdicts were unconstitutional. The ruling resulted in the overturning of convictions in scores of cases, including Bueso’s conviction, which was based on a vote of 11 to 1.

On June 30, 2021, the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case after new information came to light and a parish grand jury declined to return an indictment against Bueso. Bueso was released to the custody of ICE agents, who brought him to an immigration detention center to await deportation to Honduras. It was Bueso’s fear of such an outcome that kept him from calling the police after the murder of his roommate in the first place.

The information included statements from Bueso that he and Brisuela were the victims of a robbery, as well as testimony from a manager of the apartment building that robberies were occurring in the building at the time that Brisuela was killed. In addition, a woman who picked up Bueso after the murder confirmed that Bueso said he and Brisuela had been attacked.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said that although the murder would remain an open investigation, he did not anticipate any new developments or evidence coming forward.

Blanchard-Romanach told the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper that Bueso lied to police “because they told him from the moment they made contact with him that he was going to prison for life and they lied and said they saw blood all over his boots, David got scared and denied being at the apartment when Jhoel was killed.”

She said that Bueso asked to speak with the detectives again a couple of days later, with a lawyer present, “but they basically told him they didn't have a lawyer available for him at that time and he could just go back to the jail without giving a statement.”

Blanchard-Romanach told the Advocate that Brisuela’s blood apparently got on Bueso's pants when Bueso went into Brisuela's bedroom at gunpoint to get money demanded by the robbers — money that was in Brisuela's closet.

“David was not even aware that the blood had gotten on his pants, as his attention was obviously on trying to stay alive and begging the robbers to stop striking Jhoel,” she said. In arguing for a new trial in 2019, Blanchard-Romanach pointed out that the blood on Bueso’s pants was on the backside of the clothing, not the front.

“While there were drops of blood on David's pants, it was not at all the quantity of blood that would have gotten on the pants of the perpetrator nor was it in the location that would have gotten on the perpetrator,” Blanchard-Romanach’s new trial motion said. “One would expect that whomever attacked Mr. Brisuela would have been covered in blood. It defies logic and common sense to suggest that a person who attacked and killed Brisuela would have left that scene with only a few specks of blood on his pants.”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/2/2021
Last Updated: 8/2/2021
County:East Baton Rouge
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2017
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No