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Leyba Murder Trial Day 0: Jury Selection

April 20, 2010, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein
The murder trial of Marino "Reno" Leyba, Jr—a headline-grabbing case that SFR covered at length—begins tomorrow at the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. Jury selection is ongoing today.

District Judge Michael Vigil called 125 prospective jurors; the largest room in the courthouse only has seating for 120. By a show of hands, approximately one-half of the prospectives had been exposed to some media coverage of the case.

Defense Rejected Plea Offer


At a recent status conference on the case, it emerged that the First Judicial District Attorney's Office had offered a plea agrement to Leyba's attorney, Gary Mitchell, but that Mitchell had turned it down, preferring to take the case to trial.

Assistant District Attorney Yvonne Chicoine told SFR at the time that she couldn't discuss the details of the rejected deal.



Leyba's father, Marino Leyba, Sr, and grandmother waited expectantly outside the courtroom this morning. Reno himself, looking clean-cut and baby-faced, sat inside next to his Mitchell.

Today's Journal Santa Fe quotes Mitchell explaining the defense strategy: Essentially, that Reno was insane at the time he shot his girlfriend, Sarah Lovato, and her father, Bennie Ray Lovato, Sr.

Error In Original Police Report


Today's Journal article repeats an error in the original police report by Santa Fe Police Department Det. Tony Trujillo, and contained in SFR's past coverage of the case:
As [Sarah's sister] Julie Lovato ran out of the apartment to get help from her brother, Ben Lovato Jr., who lived in another unit inside the complex, she heard her sister yell, "Please, Reno, no," followed by a gunshot, according to the police report.

The sister heard about five more gunshots while at her brother's apartment. Ben Jr. grabbed a baseball bat and ran to the other apartment, only to find his father and sister dead.

Bennie Jr. was in jail at the time of his sister's murder. He recently told SFR recently that his brother Jared was actually the one who grabbed the baseball bat and attempted to rescue his family, but SFR has not yet had the opportunity to interview Jared or the other Lovato brother, Nick. The correct version of events will probably emerge during the course of the trial.

Lovatos To File Civil Claim


Santa Fe attorney Robert Rothstein, in court today observing jury selection, tells SFR he will represent the Lovato family in a claim, yet to be filed, against USA Security & Surveillance, Leyba's father's company, which supplied him with the probable murder weapon.

The state Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees private security firms, may also have some liability, Rothstein says—but the state isn't his first legal target.

 

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