By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A 27-year-old Clovis man who prosecutors said orchestrated the shooting death of another Clovis man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday in an emotionally charged courtroom.
Eric Duran pleaded guilty Monday to accessory to second-degree murder. First-degree murder and other lesser charges were dropped in exchange for the plea.
“I think justice was served in the fact that we received the conviction of second degree and the fact that we received the maximum sentence,” District Attorney Matthew Chandler said.
Duran and two co-defendants are charged with killing Carlos Murillo, 27, of Clovis during a vehicle chase through city streets in the early-morning hours of Jan. 4, 2004.
Chandler stated in court that Duran gave guns to Christopher Meier, 21, and Santiago Calbert, 20, first coaching them through a drive-by shooting on Jan. 3, and later ordering the Murillo shooting.
The district attorney said Murillo shot Duran’s car several times, at which point Duran chased the victim in his car to where the victim was eventually slain.
After hearing testimony from the victim’s family, 9th Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Quinn sentenced Duran to the maximum for accessory to second-degree murder. Under the serious violent offender act, Duran will not be eligible for parole until 85 percent of his sentence is served — about 13 years. With one year of presentence confinement, he will be eligible for parole in about 12 years.
“When people chase each other up and down the streets of this city, it makes us all a little less free,” Quinn said before handing down the sentence.
Murillo’s wife offered a teary-eyed statement in the sentencing phase of the hearing.
“It is doubtful that I or my husband’s family will ever be able to fully recover from this tragedy,” said Eleisa Luero-Murillo, who was three months pregnant when her husband was killed.
Trying to contain her emotion, she described how her young daughter will never know her father, and anticipated the day when she will ask what happened to him.
After the sentencing, Duran turned toward the victim’s family.
“I would just like to apologize to the victim’s family,” he said.
Earlier in the hearing, Duran considered rejecting the plea agreement.
Shortly after Monday’s proceedings began, Duran’s attorney advised the court his client had a “change of heart” and would not be going through with the plea agreement signed in February.
Duran was ordered back into custody, but returned to court after a 30-minute conference with his attorney, Dan Lindsey of Clovis, and agreed to the terms of the plea agreement. Lindsey said the judge’s decision to remand Duran back into custody at the hearing weighed on his client’s ultimate decision.
During the hearing, Duran’s family members charged that Murillo’s relatives had followed them in the streets of Clovis. Members of the families traded barbs in open court, which brought admonishment from Quinn. Duran turned toward the victim’s family, insisting all anger for the death fall exclusively on him.
Quinn pleaded with the family members to let the feud end at the hearing.
“I don’t want any further violence or threats at all,” Quinn said. “This should stop here in this courtroom.”
Calbert’s murder trial is slated for March 14, but a deal is on the table, Chandler said. Currently there is no setting for Meier, but Chandler said a plea agreement could also be reached in that case. Both men are charged with first-degree murder.