San Francisco, CA — A man charged with fatally choking a sexual partner during a 2011 encounter in Buena Vista Park was acquitted of murder today, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced.
Jurors deliberated six days before finding David Munoz Diaz, 25, not guilty of murder, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien. Diaz was instead convicted of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of four years. Diaz has been in custody more than three years awaiting trial.
Jurors convicted Diaz of arson of the property of another, mutilating human remains and misdemeanor destroying evidence.
Charges against Diaz stemmed from the death of Freddy Canul-Arguello, 23, whose body was found in Buena Vista Park June 10, 2011. The two men, friendly acquaintances who enjoyed a previous sexual encounter, had hours earlier run into each other in the Castro and walked to the park to have sex. During the tryst, Diaz reluctantly agreed to choke Canul-Arguello, accidentally asphyxiating him. Frightened and distraught, Diaz placed a recycling bin near the body and lit the contents to signal for help. He then pulled a nearby fire alarm box and made several calls to 911.
“David is a sweet kid who never meant to hurt anyone. I am relieved the jury was able to determine the truth—that Freddy’s death was a terrible, tragic accident.” Lilien said.
During the month-long trial, a friend of Canul-Arguello testified that he confided that he enjoyed being choked during sex. Called by the defense, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy testified that Canul-Arguello’s injuries were not inconsistent with erotic asphyxia. A medical doctor and instructor at UCSF also took the stand, explaining the sexual practice of choking and “breath play.”
Diaz, a restaurant worker, had no previous criminal history.
Adachi applauded the jurors for carefully considering the testimony and weighing the evidence in the case.
“There was no motive for Mr. Diaz to intentionally harm his friend and no evidence to support a murder charge. Fortunately, his public defender was able to show that Mr. Canul-Arguello’s death was a tragedy but not murder as the prosecutor claimed,” Adachi said.