Jury to decide between prison, death penalty

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — The same jury that on Thursday convicted Stanley Bedford of kidnapping and killing an elderly Portales couple will decide in a second, separate trial whether he should be executed as punishment.

After the verdict was read, Judge Stephen Quinn immediately sentenced Bedford, 43, of Portales to 120 years in prison in the August 2005 deaths of Doris and Odis Newman, whose bodies were found in the trunk of their burned car.

The jury will be given instructions by Quinn, but must rule on its own if the prison term is sufficient or if the death penalty is necessary.

The jury will reconvene June 21 to decide.

To obtain the death penalty, District Attorney Matt Chandler must prove to the jury at least one aggravating factor, which in this case murder in course of kidnapping.

Chandler said the case meets the special set of circumstances New Mexico lawmakers have set for the death penalty, and it is his duty as district attorney to seek the death penalty.

In the penalty phase, different evidence is allowed as well. In the first trial, witnesses testified on facts surrounding the crimes committed. In the penalty phase, witnesses can testify for or against the defendant’s character, and knowledge of the crime or crimes is not a necessary component of testimony.

Items considered can include a person’s criminal history, financial condition and the impact of the crime on the victim’s family.

Members of the Newman family will be allowed to make statements before the jury, as granted under the state’s constitution and statutes.

The penalty phase can be longer than the criminal trial. The courtroom for the phase is reserved through the month of June.

If the jury gives Bedford the death penalty, the final decision will rest with the New Mexico Supreme Court.

State statutes require the New Mexico Supreme Court to review all convictions resulting in death sentences. The court is required to overturn a death sentence if it determines that the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant, according to New Mexico statute.