Week in Review: Judge could limit character witnesses

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — The jury that will determine Stanley Bedford’s fate has seen nearly 300 pieces of evidence and heard testimony from nearly 40 witnesses.

There’s plenty they haven’t seen as well.

The instances are more frequent during the current death penalty phase, during which the jury will decide whether Bedford is sentenced to 120 years in prison or a death sentence for his role in the March 3, 2005, deaths of Odis and Doris Newman of Portales.

For many of the moments the jurors saw Thursday and Friday, there was usually some type of element they never saw due to disagreements between the defense and prosecution:

So far, jurors have heard nine Bedford family members testify what a loving son, brother, nephew and uncle that Bedford was to his family, and more are planned through the mitigation phase. Before the jury was allowed in for the mitigation phase Friday, the defense sought limits on the witness list the prosecution plans for the rebuttal phase, which could start as early as Monday afternoon.

The defense argued previous death penalty cases set precedents on how many are allowed to speak to reflect victim impact. Defense attorney Daniel Salazar said case law has previously set a limit of two family members or representatives making brief written or oral statements. The prosecution has 11 on its list to testify, and lead defense attorney Gary Mitchell is afraid it will become a comparison of Stanley Bedford’s family and the Newmans’ family.

Prosecutor Donna Mowrer said the state shouldn’t have potential witnesses from a list of 11 eliminated when the defense listed approximately 20 witnesses.

Salazar said nobody on the defense team has ever disputed the quality of the Newmans’ character or how much they’ll be missed by family and friends. He countered that bringing up numerous witnesses to that end would inflame the jury toward an “arbitrary imposition of the death sentence” for Bedford.

“We can’t stretch it to fishing buddies and members of the community,” Salazar said.

Judge Stephen Quinn said he wouldn’t deny any witnesses for the prosecution at this point, and would rule individually on prosecution witnesses.

The jury heard the testimony of Brittni, Brian and Stephen A. Page, the niece and nephews of Bedford. However, they heard limited testimony. Defense attorneys kept the testimony short because any references on Bedford’s character would open up a character argument for the state.

For example, prosecutor Michael Cox said, if the children were to testify Bedford was a good guy because he saved somebody from falling off of a tree, “then we can bring up multiple felony convictions” toward the character argument.

The jury saw numerous members of Bedford’s family give condolences to the Newman family from the witness stand.

During recesses, the jury was excused and did not see the families exchange hugs and pleasantries, along with apologies for the events that led each family to be in Albuquerque.