Attorney for suspect in transient deaths pushes for mistrial

AP News
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Posted: Dec 03, 2015 4:00 PM
Attorney for suspect in transient deaths pushes for mistrial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A lawyer for one of three suspects accused in the fatal beatings of two homeless men in Albuquerque sought a mistrial Thursday because three jurors appeared inadvertently in local television news footage during the first day of testimony.

Attorney Daniel Salazar's request came before the second day of testimony in the trial for his client, Alex Rios, who faces two murder counts and more than two dozen other charges in the July 2014 attack.

Two juveniles also were charged in the case, with the youngest taking a plea deal that offers him the possibility of release when he turns 21 in exchange for his testimony. Now 16, that defendant is expected to take the stand later Thursday.

State District Judge Briana Zamora ordered Salazar to submit his motion for a mistrial in writing during an afternoon court recess.

State law forbids the filming or photographing of jurors. It is intended to protect jurors' identity for their safety and to ensure their objectivity, which Salazar argued was jeopardized, especially if the jurors' friends or relatives saw them on TV.

"I don't doubt that it was inadvertent. Everybody knows you aren't supposed to show the jurors," he said. "But the cat's out of the bag."

Salazar said he would consider revoking his motion for a mistrial if he received proper assurances from the news media that the footage wouldn't be shown again and the mistake wouldn't be repeated.

His argument for a mistrial came a day after jurors were shown graphic autopsy photographs of Allison Gorman, one of the victims, who suffered multiple lacerations, bruising and facial fractures almost too numerous to count.

He and Kee Thompson were sleeping in a vacant lot when they were brutally attacked with a cinder block, metal police and other objects, according to police. The men also suffered stab wounds. Both victims were Navajo and in their 40s.

The killings shocked many in Albuquerque and led Mayor Richard Berry to create a task force on homelessness related to Native Americans.

Prosecutors haven't indicated the victims were targeted because of their race, but they have said the grisly murder was planned and carried out by the three teens, including Rios, who was 18 at the time.

Prosecutor Vincent Martinez also told jurors during opening statements: "You're going to hear about how the boys tried to cover for themselves."

Rios' attorney argues he didn't participate in the attack and only watched from a distance, scared and in shock, as it unfolded.

Salazar argues the state has no physical evidence proving Rios struck the victims. He acknowledged his client's DNA was discovered on a pile of clothes that was found in a bedroom and linked to the crime, but he said the finding did not prove his client beat or killed the men.

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Follow Mary Hudetz on Twitter at http://twitter.com/marymhudetz. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mary-hudetz.