Bedford dodges death penalty

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Stanley Bedford, right, smiles while talking to defense attorney Gary Mitchell in District Court in Albuquerque following the penalty phase.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — Stanley Bedford will not be New Mexico’s third death row inmate.

Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the penalty phase of his trial for the 2005 murders of Doris and Odis Newman of Portales. Bedford, 43, will instead serve the 120-year prison sentence imposed last week by Judge Stephen Quinn.

Newman family members and the District Attorney’s office hoped for the death penalty, but respected and appreciate the jury’s decision and work since the final week of May.

“I think we can live with this decision,” said Vickie Dixon, daughter of the Newmans. “We wanted more, but this man will never be on the streets again, and that’s what we wanted.”

Jurors found Bedford guilty June 14 of eight counts, including murder and kidnapping, in connection with the Newmans’ deaths. The couple was found March 3, 2005, locked in the trunk of their burned car on a Roosevelt County road.

Co-conspirator Jerry Fuller, who agreed to a 127-year sentence for his role in the Newmans’ death, admitted to pouring gasoline on the Newmans’ car and lighting the fire, but prosecutors contend Bedford helped plan the fire. Fuller is the Newmans’ nephew.

“We do believe a crime this heinous deserves the death penalty,” District Attorney Matt Chandler said. “We don’t regret bringing it (to the jury). But we think 120 years — guilty on all the counts we presented — that’s still justice. We’re going back to eastern New Mexico, thanks to our neighbors in Albuquerque, with that justice that this family deserves.”

An appeal will be automatically filed to the state Supreme Court, as is the case with all first-degree murder convictions.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell thanked the jury for sparing unnecessary heartache to Bedford’s family by enacting what he considers murder by the government.

“I hope the governor and the Legislature listen,” Mitchell said. “Certainly, somebody on the jury listened today, and we’re extremely grateful. I applaud the people of this state, because they’ve done this time and time again. You can’t thank them enough for that.”

Bedford’s family declined comment following the verdict.

Bedford family members embraced Newman family members following the verdict and offered condolences throughout the penalty phase.

“Their family has lived through heartache just like ours has,” Dixon said. “They are a family just like we are and they deserve just as much respect as we do.”

Timeline surrounding the case of Odis and Doris’ Newmans’ deaths:
March 2, 2005: Officials said someone attempted to use a debit card that belonged to Doris Newman, 69, and identified a car belonging to her and Odis Newman, 70, at a Portales bank in surveillance video.

March 3, 2005: Firefighters are called to a car fire southeast of Portales. The remains of Odis and Doris Newman are found in the car’s trunk.

March 7, 2005: Portales residents Cynthia Peninger, Stanley Bedford and Archie Crawford are arrested after a tip by a Clovis pawn shop owner.

March 21, 2005: Bedford and Fuller are indicted by a grand jury on charges related to the murder.

June 8, 2005: The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office announces it will seek the death penalty against Bedford and Fuller.

Oct. 5, 2006: Fuller pleads guilty to two counts each of first degree murder, kidnapping and other charges in the Newmans’ deaths. He agrees to testify against other defendants in the case, including Bedford, and accepts a sentence of 127 years in prison.

May 7, 2007: Bedford’s attorney Gary Mitchell argues the constitutionality of New Mexico’s death penalty in a series of motions in district court in Portales. Quinn denies Mitchell’s motions.

May 21, 2007: Jury selection begins in Albuquerque district courtroom in the Bedford case.

May 31, 2007: Opening statements are heard in the Bedford case and testimony begins.

June 14, 2007: Bedford found guilty on two charges of first-degree murder, two charges of kidnapping, two counts of tampering with evidence, possession of stolen property and burglary. Judge Stephen Quinn delivers a sentence of 120 years in prison. Bedford is eligible for parole in 107 years.

June 21, 2007: Penalty phase begins. The jury deliberates for nearly three hours before agreeing unanimously on the kidnappings of Odis and Doris Newman as an aggravating circumstance.

June 22, 2007: The defense’s mitigation defense begins. In all, 18 witnesses testify.

June 25, 2007: Mitigation phase ends.

June 26, 2007: Six surviving relatives of the Newmans testify in a victim impact stage. The jury is sent to deliberate Bedford’s punishment.

June 27, 2007: The jury cannot unanimously agree on a verdict, and the prison sentence is automatically imposed.