San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New trial begins this week in Costa Rica for security guard who killed Kansas student

A new trial for the man accused of killing U.S. student Justin Johnston in 2011 began this week in the province of Alajuela, northwest of the capital.

Jorge Guevara, a Nicaraguan national who worked as hotel security guard, is on trial for the shooting death of 16-year-old U.S. tourist Justin Johnston after Guevara mistook him for an intruder on June 2, 2011.

A criminal court previously had convicted Guevara and sentenced him to 15 years in prison plus a fine of $650,000 to be paid to Johnston’s family. But a Sentencing Appeals Court in San Ramón, Alajuela, last month ruled in favor of an appeal filed by Guevara’s attorney that claimed “the original trial court did not establish Guevara’s intent to kill Johnston.”

Nine witnesses are scheduled to testify during the new trial, which will take place Sept 16-27.

The night of the shooting, Johnston and a friend – who were part of a Spanish Club group from the United States – left a hotel in La Fortuna and returned late, after a group curfew. When they returned, the two students attempted to sneak into the hotel without being noticed, passing through an adjoining property with a barbed-wire fence, according to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ).

Guevara testified at trial that he fired a warning shot into the air, frightening the teenagers, who began running towards the hotel. He fired again in the direction of the students and fatally wounded Johnston.

But Johnston’s parents say his classmate testified “there was no warning shot.”

“Devastating, we received the news of Guevara being granted a new trial from the appeals court on Justin’s birthday. We were actually at the cemetery,” John Johnston, Justin’s father, told a local Fox News affiliate in McLouth, Kansas, in August.

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