Jurors deciding on death penalty

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Stanley Bedford addresses jurors during the penalty phase of his trial at District Court in Albuquerque.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — Jurors heard the final arguments about how they can and should punish Stanley Bedford for the deaths of an elderly Portales couple.

The jury that convicted Bedford, 43, of murder, kidnapping and other charges in the March 3, 2005, deaths of Doris and Odis Newman, is now considering whether he will serve a 120-year prison sentence or death by lethal injection.

“He is 43 years old. He will die in the New Mexico Department of Corrections,” defense attorney Gary Mitchell said of Bedford. “The question is whether we take that step.”

District Attorney Matt Chandler said it’s not an easy decision to seek the death penalty, but some acts deserve the most severe consequence, and the Newmans had done nothing to deserve the way they died.

“They lived the life we all aspire to live,” Chandler said. “They raised a family, they owned a business, and they started that business from the ground up.”

When the Newman bodies were found in the trunk of their burned car, Chandler said, it was after they were kidnapped and burned by Jerry Fuller and Stanley Bedford. He asked the jury to weigh that circumstance, and rule that no mitigating circumstance outweighs that.

Mitchell brought up several mitigating factors for the jury to consider, including Jerry Fuller’s larger role in the killings and the fact he received a life sentence. Mitchell argued once Fuller received a 127-year prison sentence for entering into a plea agreement, the death penalty option should have been off the table for Bedford.

Chandler countered by telling the jury it should consider other differences between the two, including criminal records. Fuller had one conviction for issuing a worthless check, while Bedford had three felony convictions in the last 10 years. Fuller confessed his actions to his girlfriend, tried to commit suicide, and cooperated with investigators, while Bedford threatened roommates to stay quiet, tried to pawn off rings stolen from Doris Newman, and lied repeatedly to investigators, Chandler said.

Mitchell said the jury should also consider the race differences, not because he was suggesting anybody in the courtroom was racist, but that the death penalty disproportionately is given to minorities.

If jurors had racial biases, Chandler said, they would do a disservice to bring that into the jury room.

“I do not consider or bring prejudice … into the courtroom, period,” Chandler said. “The only person who has brought prejudice to the courtroom is Gary Mitchell.”

Mitchell said it only took one juror to throw the death sentence out the window and hoped each juror would have the courage to do it.

Chandler ended with a quote from Edmund Burke, who said, “All that is necessary for the evil to win is the good people sit back and do nothing.”