- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A judge dismissed three jurors Thursday in the murder trial of a 20-year-old man accused of fatally beating two homeless men in Albuquerque, after the jurors inadvertently appeared in television footage and the suspect’s attorney sought a mistrial.

Attorney Daniel Salazar’s motion was denied on the second day of testimony in the trial for his client, Alex Rios, who faces two murder counts and more than two dozen other charges in the July 2014 attack.

Two juveniles also were charged in the case, with the youngest taking a plea deal that offers him the possibility of release when he turns 21 in exchange for his testimony. Now 16, that defendant’s testimony initially expected Thursday was delayed after Salazar’s mistrial motion.

State law forbids the filming or photographing of jurors. It is intended to protect jurors’ identity for their safety and to ensure their objectivity. In the news footage, jurors were shown briefly while sitting in the jury box, according to attorneys.

“I don’t doubt that it was inadvertent. Everybody knows you aren’t supposed to show the jurors,” he said. “But the cat’s out of the bag.”

The argument for a mistrial came a day after jurors were shown graphic autopsy photographs of Allison Gorman, one of the victims, who suffered multiple lacerations, bruising and facial fractures almost too numerous to count.

Gorman and Kee Thompson were sleeping in a vacant lot when they were brutally attacked with a cinder block, metal police and other objects, according to police. The men also suffered stab wounds. Both victims were Navajo and in their 40s.

The killings shocked many and led Mayor Richard Berry to create a task force on homelessness related to Native Americans.

Prosecutors haven’t indicated the victims were targeted because of their race, but they have said the grisly murder was planned and carried out by the three teens, including Rios, who was 18 at the time.

Rios’ attorney argues he didn’t participate in the attack and only watched from a distance, scared and in shock, as it unfolded.

Salazar argues the state has no physical evidence proving Rios struck the victims. However, he did acknowledged his client’s DNA was discovered on a pile of clothes that was found in a bedroom and linked to the crime - a finding he said did not prove his client beat or killed the men.

A forensic scientist with the Albuquerque Police Department who testified on Thursday analyzed DNA found on the T-shirts, shorts, face mask and shoes.


Follow Mary Hudetz on Twitter at https://twitter.com/marymhudetz. Her work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mary-hudetz.

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