Prosecution Rests

Defense testimony in teen murder trial to begin Friday

Prosecutors in the murder trial for Estevan Montoya on Thursday rested their case, wrapping it up with evidence that the defendant handled firearms months prior to shooting Fedonta “JB” White.

Just weeks before the August 2020 shooting in Chupadero, Montoya witnessed the death of his friend Ivan Perez—factoring into, defense attorneys say, his decision to carry a gun. However, jurors saw Facebook messages in which Montoya discussed trading and selling firearms with others months before Perez was killed, including his attempt to sell a .380 caliber handgun he called a “pocket rocket.” It was a .380 slug that killed White, although the weapon was never found.

Witnesses testified they saw a red laser pointed at the walls of the house the night of the party where White was shot. Prosecutors attempted to tie the testimony to videos obtained by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Det. Roy Arndt from social media in which Montoya appears multiple times holding a firearm with a red laser sight.

Another video showed the defendant sitting in the same parking lot where Perez was killed, a little over a week afterward.

“Defendant does not appear holed up, does he?” Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Padgett Macias said, countering the defense’s narrative that Montoya was afraid to leave his home.

In addition to the Facebook messages, the state also offered phone records as evidence. While Montoya did not have his own, working cell phone on the morning of the shooting, investigators said logs showed 13 calls were placed either to or from a phone that belongs to Montoya’s mother during the hour after the shooting.

After the jury was released for the day, defense attorney Dan Marlowe motioned for Lawrence Renner to be admitted as an expert witness to testify about the path of the bullet. Judge T. Glenn Ellington said it could be helpful for the jury to hear Renner’s testimony on the possible body position White was in when he was shot, as the defense has made the case that Montoya was being chased by White and, therefore, White would have been slightly horizontal or bent over at the time.

The judge ruled that Renner can testify, but not about the general distance between Montoya and White when the gun was fired. The state will also have an opportunity to rebut Renner’s testimony.

Renner initially intended to use a local criminology student, who is Black, as a model to demonstrate how the bullet went from White’s upper chest and down into his spine. Chief Deputy District Attorney Blake Nichols objected, saying it was “the defense’s clear intention all along to try to paint Mr. White as the big, scary black athlete.”

“This whole exercise demonstrates the absurdity of this, judge,” Nichols said. “We are trying to replicate something that cannot be replicated. This is essentially the defense trying to get the defendant’s version of events out without subjecting him to cross examination.”

Defense Attorney Ben Ortega offered to serve as the model for Renner’s testimony, which Ellington approved. Ortega will stand on a stool so he appears the same height as White: 6′4″.

The defense will begin its case in chief Friday. Marlowe has not indicated whether Montoya will testify.

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