Motion to dismiss death penalty denied

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

Ninth Judicial District Judge Stephen Quinn on Thursday denied defense motions to dismiss the death penalty as a possible sentence and separate the charges of a Portales man accused of killing an elderly Portales couple.

Jerry Fuller, 33, is accused of killing his uncle and aunt, Odis and Doris Newman, 70 and 69 at the time of their deaths, in early March of 2005.

On Thursday, Quinn denied the defense’s motion to dismiss the death penalty phase of the trial. District Attorney Matt Chandler said the judge decided state prosecutors had enough evidence to proceed with the charges for first-degree murder and established that aggravated circumstances existed in the case.

Quinn heard more than 60 motions Thursday during court proceedings from Fuller’s defense attorneys. Defense attorney Steve Aarons of Santa Fe argued that the three counts of assaulting peace officers should be separate from Fuller’s murder trial.

Fuller faces two charges of first-degree murder, two of kidnapping, three of assault upon a peace officer and one of evidence tampering. Chandler said when police officers apprehended him on March 8, 2005, Fuller exited a shed with what appeared to be a handgun. Police officers said they instructed Fuller numerous times to drop his weapon and show his hands. According to Chandler, Fuller was fired upon by police officers and struck three times and it was discovered that Fuller had a BB gun.

“We would ask the court to consider severing the charges of his apprehension,” Aarons said. “They may be prejudicial. We’re concerned there may be some confusion and misapplication of the facts by the jury.”

Aarons contended the apprehension would affect the jurors’ decision on the death penalty trial.

“The state believes we appropriately filed the charges together,” said Donna Mowrer, a senior prosecutor. “We believe the defense has not established prejudice.”

Quinn denied the Aarons’ motion to separate the three counts of assaulting peace officers from the counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

On Wednesday, Quinn granted the defense motion to change the venue to Roswell. On Thursday, Quinn spoke with attorneys about the courtroom setup of the Chaves County Courthouse and set dates for the trial.

Aarons was concerned with television camera crews and photographers videotaping and photographing Fuller before he entered the Chaves County Courthouse. Aarons conceded that from what he has heard, the newly renovated courthouse setup limits public accessibility from the entry point for defendants.

Originally scheduled for mid-June, the trial has been reset for Jan. 8 to Feb. 16. On Wednesday, Quinn granted defense attorneys a continuance after they argued more time was needed to prepare because key statements and other evidence was not received from state prosecutors until April 17.

Stanley Bedford, 42, of Portales and Fuller were each indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the Newmans’ deaths. In June prosecutors entered their motion to seek the death penalty.

Bedford’s trial is set to begin in September for six weeks. Quinn has not yet heard motions from Bedford’s attorney, Gary Mitchell. Fuller and Bedford are being held at the Roosevelt County Detention Center without bail.