Crisostomo now blames lawyers

Defendant sues DOC, DOC Commissioner Attao

Joseph Acosta Crisostomo, who was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape, and killing of a female bartender, now claims ineffective assistance of counsel, blaming it for allegedly leading to his convictions.

In a handwritten petition for habeas corpus addressed to Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja, Crisostomo is accusing his lawyer, Janet H. King, and co-counsels of providing him ineffective assistance. He is also suing Corrections Commissioner Vincent S. Attao.

The Superior Court received Crisostomo’s petition last Sept. 19.

Naraja on Friday assigned the case to himself. Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho presided over Crisostomo’s trial.

On Tuesday, Naraja directed the Department of Corrections and Attao to provide a certification why Crisostomo is in detention. Naraja set the order to show cause hearing for Oct. 9, 2018, at 9am.

Last July, the CNMI Supreme Court affirmed Crisostomo’s convictions in killing Emerita R. Romero. In a 39-page opinion, the high court justices noted that even after omitting errors in Camacho’s rulings in the case, numerous evidence remain.

Crisostomo, through King, appealed his convictions, claiming numerous deficiencies before and during trial.

In his lawsuit against Attao, Crisostomo asked Naraja for a lawyer who would review his petition and appeal.

Crisostomo said that King made several mistakes during pre-trial and jury trial.

As of press time, Saipan Tribune was still awaiting comments from King.

He said that, after the jury found him guilty on all charges, King told him not to worry because she and her co-counsels from Guam, F. Randall Cunliffe and Jeffrey Moots, are going to file an appeal to the CNMI Supreme Court.

He said King told him that Camacho made a lot of errors during the trial.

Crisostomo said his lawyers messed up, mostly in his appeal brief.

He said he told King months before the trial that he wants to testify, but she told him it is better for him not to take the stand.

“This is the reason why the jury and court convicted me on all charges,” he said.

Crisostomo said in the footnote of the high court’s decision, the justices clearly state that his briefing is littered with violations of NMI Supreme Court rules, conclusory statements, underwhelming legal arguments, and misstatements of the law.

He said Camacho denied his desire to have a DNA expert testify in his defense.

On April 24, 2014, a jury pronounced the then-40-year-old Crisostomo guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault in the first degree, and robbery.

On May 28, 2014, Camacho sentenced Crisostomo to life imprisonment.

Romero, 37, was last seen boarding a car near her house in Garapan in the early morning hours of Feb. 5, 2012. She was supposed to meet her boyfriend in Chalan Piao. Two days later, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found her body in a small bathroom at the abandoned La Fiesta Mall in San Roque/As Matuis. Autopsy revealed she was beaten and strangled with a pair of leggings.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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