Appeals court upholds conviction of man who killed woman, put her body in a suitcase

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An appeals court upheld the murder conviction Friday of a San Diego man who beat, raped and strangled a female friend after watching her have sex with another couple, then stuffed her body in a suitcase and put it out with the trash.

A San Diego jury convicted Joshua Matthew Palmer of first-degree murder with an allegation of committing the murder in the commission of rape, sodomy or sexual penetration for the April 5, 2016, murder of 21-year-old Shauna Haynes. He was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said Palmer videotaped himself doing “unspeakable things” to his co-worker Shauna Haynes’ body after he killed her at the Chadwick Hotel in downtown San Diego on April 5.

Doyle alleged the two were friends, but Palmer sought a romantic relationship.

Upon witnessing Haynes engaging in sex acts with a couple at his home, he kicked the couple out, but Haynes stayed behind.

Her body was discovered inside the suitcase in a trash bin outside the hotel the next day.

On appeal, Palmer asserted that he was entitled to a new trial because his defense attorney, Katie Belisle, conceded to the jury that he killed Haynes in the heat of passion, while Palmer disagreed with the defense strategy and argued he caused Haynes’ death, albeit accidentally.

The appeals court ruling notes Palmer’s citation of a U.S. Supreme Court case in which a defendant’s triple-murder conviction was reversed because he insisted he was innocent throughout the proceedings, while his attorney conceded guilt at trial.

The appeals panel wrote that Palmer’s case was different because he did not assert his innocence during the trial and at most, argued that Haynes died accidentally.

Rather than sticking with one plan of action, the three-justice panel wrote that he continually changed his story with both police and his attorney.

“Instead, it appears that Palmer consistently changed his story, presenting a moving target for his attorney to follow, and it is clear that the defense counsel presented the best defense possible under the dire circumstances presented.”

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