Capital murder case sent to jury

Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson District Attorney Matt Chandler holds a portrait of Odis and Doris Newman during his closing argument Tuesday in the trial of Stanley Bedford in Albuquerque.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — The fate of Stanley Bedford now lays in the hands of a dozen Albuquerque residents.

Jurors began deliberations about 2 p.m. Tuesday following closing arguments of Bedford’s capital murder trial in District Court.
Bedford, 43, of Portales is charged with kidnapping and killing Odis and Doris Newman of Portales in March 2005.

Judge Stephen Quinn instructed the jury before closing arguments that if they couldn’t agree on first-degree murder, which means Bedford intended to kill the Newmans, then second-degree murder should be considered. Second-degree murder does not include the possibility of a death sentence.

During closing arguments, District Attorney Matt Chandler said based on the facts, jurors could reasonably conclude robbing and killing the Newmans was not a one-man job, and Bedford — a three-time felon who knew evidence had to be destroyed — helped alleged co-conspirator Jerry Fuller do it.

Fuller admitted to being the only person to pour gasoline on the Newmans’ car and light it on fire, but Chandler said Bedford had the idea to burn them and helped distract an Allsup’s clerk while Fuller filled up the murder weapon — plastic gas cans.

“Once they started their partnership,” Chandler said, “they’re guilty all the way through.”

Fuller pleaded guilty earlier this year to kidnapping and killing the Newmans — his aunt and uncle — and is serving a 127-year sentence. The state was seeking the death penalty.

Chandler warned the jury defense attorney Gary Mitchell would discredit the state’s case by attacking Fuller, who testified against Bedford in the trial. Fuller was honest, Chandler said, cooperated with police before a plea was offered, and is the best material witness.

“Who are witnesses to double murders? I can assure you they don’t happen at church picnics,” Chandler said. “Crimes that are formulated in the pits of hell don’t have angels as witnesses.”

Mitchell did attack Fuller’s credibility during his closing argument, noting that many key details of his story never came up until he testified in District Court. Fuller, Mitchell said, had “depths of depravity” that couldn’t be measured as the man who chose to rob and kill his uncle and aunt.

“This is the witness the state says to you, ‘Rely upon him, give this man full credibility, and give (Bedford) zero credibility,’” Mitchell said.

Mitchell continued that Fuller was the only person who could place Bedford at the Newman home, because DNA and fingerprint evidence never identified Bedford there.

“What evidence is there that Stanley Bedford was ever there? None,” Mitchell said. “How many times does the state have to explain why there is no evidence before we have a reasonable doubt?”

Mitchell said if jurors were in there trying to solve the case themselves or they had doubt in the back of their minds, it was their duty to acquit.

Chandler argued with his presentation that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, and that Fuller’s DNA and prints never showed up either.

“It’s pretty hard to bring (evidence) to you when it’s in ashes,” Chandler said.

Chandler opened his argument by describing the Newmans as a couple married for more than half a century in Portales, a small town that takes four to five minutes to drive through and whose population could fit into the University of New Mexico’s basketball arena with 5,000 seats empty.

He spoke of the events in March 2005 that left the Newmans dead.

“When they said, ’Til death do us part,’ they never realized it would come at the hands of Stanley Bedford and Jerry Fuller.”
Bedford and Fuller robbed the Newmans, then put them in a car trunk and set it on fire outside of town because they saw the Newmans as merely evidence to be destroyed, Chandler said.

Both lawyers told jurors not to check their common sense at the door, and use it in deliberations.