Sharna Johnson, Freedom New Mexico
Demetrio Salas faces more than 46 years in prison and David Griego up to 20 years for their roles in the 2005 death of a 10-year-old Clovis boy.
A Roosevelt County jury returned verdicts against the Clovis men around 2 p.m. Thursday after about five hours of deliberations.
Carlos Perez died from a single gunshot to the head on Sept. 15, 2005.
Nine shots were fired through the window of his bedroom while he slept.
Police said Carlos’ older brother, Ruben Perez, was the intended target.
As the jury’s verdict was read before a crowded courtroom, the victim’s family remained silent while members of the defendants’ families sobbed.
After the jury was excused, Demetrio Salas’ father, overcome by emotion, made for the courtroom door and was stopped by police officers. Sobbing and covering his face, Isidoro “Lolo” Salas leaned against the door frame and in an emotional voice told officers “I just want to leave.”
Female family members asked officers to let Lolo Salas leave the courtroom but were told to remain seated. After officers ensured Lolo
Salas was calm, he was escorted out.
It was the first time Demetrio Salas showed emotion, his face reddening and his eyes tearing up at the sight of his father’s anguish.
Law officers ushered families out of the courthouse separately.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell said the defendants’ families expected guilty verdicts.
“Both defendants felt that it was unfair. My client Demetrio and I know David Griego both felt that it wasn’t right, that they can’t get a fair trial in this area. That’s what the clients feel and they’ll obviously seek appeals and hopefully they can get new trials and a new venue,” he said.
Mitchell said the Salas family felt odds were against them because of their Hispanic race and limited economic means.
“Now they’ve got two sons that are gone and the potential for a third son to be gone,” Mitchell said. “They just feel that there’s no justice. If the district attorney’s office said they were guilty then they were going to be convicted.”
Last year, Demetrio Salas’ younger brother Orlando Salas, 17, reached an agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty for his role in Carlos Perez’ death, receiving a juvenile sentence in exchange for testimony. After he declined to testify at Demetrio Salas’ trial, prosecutors said they intend to seek an adult sentence against him.
Members of the Perez family declined comment on Thursday. Griego’s attorney, Roger Bargas, could not be reached for comment.
Edward Salas, 23, and Noe Torres, 28, are pending trial in coming months for first-degree murder in the case.
Torres remains at large.
The jury’s verdict:
Demetrio Salas, 21: Guilty of felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, intimidation of a witness, shooting into a dwelling and tampering with evidence. He could face up to 46 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Sentencing is expected sometime in December.
David Griego, 31: Guilty of second-degree murder and could face up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing will be scheduled after Griego completes a 60-day diagnostic evaluation. Griego was also found innocent on charges of tampering with evidence, illegal possession of a firearm, shooting into a dwelling and attempted first-degree murder.
Instructions were given to jurors by Judge David Bonem allowing them to choose first-degree murder, felony murder or second-degree murder.
Felony murder was an alternative choice in the event jurors could not find the defendants intended to kill or cause bodily harm as required under the first-degree murder statute.
Under felony murder the law states a murder occurred in the commission of a felony, in this case shooting into a dwelling, and that the defendant should have known great bodily harm or death could result.
Second-degree murder was the least severe option given to jurors. They were told to return a verdict of second degree if they determined the crime of murder occurred but the criteria for first-degree and felony murder did not exist.