Joaquin Balassa, 33, will continue to serve a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole after the Fifth District Court of Appeal rejected his argument that the prosecution violated his right to due process and that the trial court committed errors in its instructions to the jury.
The only changes that need to be made to Balassa’s sentence, the court ruled, are that one of the special circumstance findings against him must be reversed because it’s duplicative, and a parole revocation fine of $300 must be removed because his prison term does not include the possibility of parole.
In its ruling issued Tuesday, the appellate court noted Balassa told “two starkly contrasting versions of events that could not be reconciled” regarding what had happened.
At the time of his arrest, Balassa denied any involvement in the killings of Jose Antonio Fajardo, 54, and Guy Richard Koukal, 57. At trial, however, he testified he killed them in self-defense after they raped him.
Changing his story “significantly damaged his credibility and undermined his claim that he had been victimized…” the court said.
“The prosecutor was entitled to use and did use (Balassa’s) prior inconsistent statement, including his failure to mention any need for self-defense to detectives, to impeach his credibility as to his self-defense claim at trial,” the court said in its ruling.
Fajardo and Koukal, a gay couple, first met Balassa about six months before the killings while shopping at a home improvement store where Balassa worked. They later exchanged numbers with him.
On the night of Aug. 31, 2014, the three met at a restaurant for drinks and later returned to Balassa’s apartment where they continued drinking.
Early the next morning, Balassa beat both men to death.
Prosecutor David Wilson said at trial the motive was unclear, but it’s believed Fajardo may have made a pass at Balassa or tried to kiss him and Balassa became angry.
During his trial, Balassa testified he had gone to bed but woke up to Koukal raping him while Fajardo held him down. He said he freed himself then acted in self-defense as he beat both men to death.
Balassa’s testimony marked the first time he ever claimed he’d been raped. Wilson said Balassa concocted that story in a “Hail Mary” attempt to avoid being found guilty of murder.
The prosecutor said at trial there was no corroborating evidence Balassa had been raped, and Balassa’s description of what happened didn’t match with blood spatter and other physical evidence at the scene. Also, there were no significant injuries to him upon his arrest.
Balassa wrestled in high school and later trained in jiujitsu, taekwondo and kickboxing. He lost his sole professional fight in March 2010.