The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Pre-trial conference set for airmen


August 30, 2018

CLOVIS — After some back and forth among lawyers last month as to their joined cases possibly being severed, three airmen accused of raping a colleague early this year in Clovis are still due this afternoon for a pre-trial conference.

Their trial together is scheduled in October.

The state’s motion to sever was filed July 16, following the receipt of DNA analysis from the state crime lab and review of phone calls made by Thomas Newton, 25, Isaiah Edley, 20, and Rahman Buchanan, 19, while the three were in custody on charges of second-degree criminal sexual penetration.

The three were charged in late January, indicted in February and their cases joined later that month. They were held without bond for about two months before the state’s Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s pre-trial detention ruling; during that time they placed 34 phone calls from the Curry County Adult Detention Center, according to court records.

In the motion, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover said the DNA results “are similar regarding the three defendants, (but) certain results are different” and that “the State believed that the defense may assert a defense of consent.” He also referred to review of the defendants’ phone calls and cited case law specifying that “the State is not allowed to use the statement of one co-defendant in the trial of another.”

In a joint response to that motion, three defense attorneys representing the accused trio disputed Stover’s basis for the severance and pointed to the potential issues of three separate trials rather than one.

“Upon review of the aforementioned jail calls, counsel for the Defendants unanimously agree that there are no directly inculpatory statements made by one of the defendants against another...,” said the response filed July 30.

“...if anything, the statements are exculpatory as to each of the defendants, when viewed in light of the facts and circumstances of this case.”

Attorneys Craig Acorn, Ben Herrmann and Mark Earnest also said the media attention generated by one trial could adversely affect the ability for defendants in the next two “to obtain a fair trial and a fair and impartial jury in their subsequent trials.”

Stover withdrew the severance motion last week, and told The News on Wednesday that he expected the defense attorneys not to want statements from the phone calls to be used in trial, but he was fine with it if they wished otherwise.

“They argued, and they indicated that they actually wanted all of the statements to be admissible,” Stover said. “I’m more than happy to try them together.”


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