A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a Lancaster man’s murder conviction for stabbing his wife two dozen times at their home after an argument.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that “ample evidence supports the jury’s finding of premeditation and deliberation” involving the first-degree murder charge against Rafael Barragan.
He was convicted in June 2019 of the July 1, 2017, killing of his 37-year-old wife, Katrina, along with dissuading a witness from reporting a crime with force. Jurors found that he had used a knife in the commission of the attack, which occurred over an hour after the couple returned home from a party.
The appellate court justices noted in their 27-page ruling that Barragan’s “deliberate and conscious choice to kill Katrina is demonstrated by his threat to stab her during their argument, followed by him going upstairs and retrieving his Buck knife from the dresser, and then doing exactly what he said he would do — stab her.”
“Indeed, Katrina called 911, presumably while defendant was in the process of retrieving the knife, and asked for help because she thought defendant was going to stab her,” according to the appellate court panel’s ruling. “Notably, during the 911 call, Katrina twice warned defendant to stop, thereby giving him the chance to reflect on his actions … Yet it appears that her call to 911 further motivated defendant to stab Katrina, either to prevent her from continuing her 911 call or to punish her for calling the police.”
The justices noted that the manner of the killing “shows that defendant intended to kill Katrina” and that he “brutally stabbed her 24 times” as one of their two children was inside the home.
Barragan may have been drinking earlier at the party, but he was “not drunk to the point where he could not premeditate and deliberate the killing of his wife,” according to the ruling. “Thus, the evidence contradicts defendant’s claim that he was acting impulsively or irrationally as a result of alcohol intoxication when he stabbed Katrina.”
Barragan is serving a 26-year-to-life state prison sentence.