Jury selected for first-degree murder trial

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico

PORTALES — A jury was seated at the close of the day Tuesday in the first-degree murder case of two Clovis men accused in the shooting death of a 10-year-old boy in 2005.

“It’s been a long two days, ladies and gentlemen, but we finally got there,” 9th Judicial District Judge David Bonem said as he prepared to seat the jurors. “We hope to begin testimony tomorrow.”

Opening statements are set for this morning, followed by the start of the prosecution’s witnesses. 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler would not say precisely who he intends to call to the stand today but said he anticipates calling lay witnesses throughout the day, including some of the victim’s family members.

Demetrio Salas, 21, and David Griego, 31, face first-degree murder and related charges in the case. The charges are in connection with the death of Carlos Perez, who police say was killed by a bullet fired through his bedroom window as he slept next to his then-16-year-old brother, who police say was the intended target.

Salas is represented by Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso, while Griego’s counsel is Roger Bargas of Corrales, who also has an office in Tucumcari. The two say this is the first time they’ve been paired together on a case.

“We have never tried a case together, we’re friends, we serve on committees together but we’ve never had the opportunity until now,” Bargas said.

The two defense attorneys say they’re not exactly certain how Salas and Griego came to be grouped together in one trial while others are being tried separately.

“There are so many people accused of this …” Mitchell said. “We’ve been waiting for them (the prosecution) to tie all this together for months.”

Chandler said the two are being tried together because the crimes they’re charged with, including the motive, scheme and planning, are similiar. He said many of the same witnesses would have been called to testify in two cases if they were tried separately.

Chandler said Monday he felt jury selection was moving quickly enough to allow opening statements to be heard Tuesday. A gas leak at the Roosevelt County Courthouse that caused an evacuation of the building, along with a slow, deliberate approach to jury selection by Bonem, stretched the process past 5 p.m.

Both sides agreed the jury selection went well — it just took some time.

“The state has been working diligently on this case for two years and 10 days,” Chandler said. “We’re ready to go to trial and get some closure for the victim’s family.”