Bedford’s family takes stand

Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson Defense attorney Gary Mitchell, left, and Stanley Bedford smile during testimony by Bedford’s niece.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

ALBUQUERQUE — Nine members of Stanley Bedford’s family testified Wednesday as his defense team began the mitigation period of Bedford’s death-penalty hearing for the March 2005 deaths of Odis and Doris Newman of Portales.

The defense, which expects to conclude its case Monday, spent Friday talking with family members about the loving son, brother, nephew and uncle that Bedford, 43, was to family members from Clovis to Texas to Wisconsin.

In its limited cross-examination, the prosecution used the passage of time to draw relatives away from the Stanley Bedford they knew growing up and the Stanley Bedford who was convicted last week of murder.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell told jurors in opening statements he had friends who were doctors and he shares with them the great feeling when he saves a life. It is the same feeling the jury could get, Mitchell said, from sparing Bedford from the death penalty.

“Between us and you, we’re glad to do that,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t matter whose life it is. It’s good.”

Since Bedford would have to complete 107 years of a 120-year sentence handed down by Judge Stephen Quinn as an alternative to the death penalty, Mitchell said, it was obvious Bedford would die in the New Mexico Department of Corrections. However, the jury could decide whether it happened through “an act of God” or as an order to die by lethal injection.

Bedford’s troubled life began when was he was a year old and his father died of carbon monoxide poisoning, Mitchell said.

Bedford’s mother, Jessie May Albert, was described by sister Jeannette Tyra as “the chain that held the family together” until she died in 1998.

Bedford struggled in school, Mitchell said, and the defense planned to present evidence teachers noted his learning troubles but passed him anyway, and those troubles followed him throughout his life.

Mitchell repeated a previous argument he had made that Jerry Fuller, a white man who was the primary actor in the Newmans’ death, was not facing the death penalty while Bedford, a black man, is. Mitchell said the state may respond Bedford and Fuller were offered similar deals; however, he didn’t believe Bedford should pay with his life for exercising his right to a trial.

By the time Bedford’s family was done testifying, Mitchell said, it would be clear to the jury the death penalty would be an unfair punishment to them.

“There is no question you will learn they love him and care for him,” Mitchell said, “and death for him will only create another family as a victim.”

The prosecution gave no opening argument, but reserved the right to do so later.

Highlights from Friday’s testimony in Stanley Bedford’s death-penalty case hearing:

Jeannette Tyra
Relationship to case: Sister of Stanley Bedford.

Testimony: Her brother was laid back and quiet, but loved to pull pranks on her. He and her brothers turned her into a tomboy, since she was the only daughter. “They wouldn’t play with my dolls, so I had to do what they did.”
Their mother, Jesse May Albert, taught every child to cook and clean and expected them to do so, and her brother was a great cook. Her brother had his troubles in school, but she had troubles too and didn’t understand the material enough to help him.
Their mother was the chain that held the family together, and her death was her hardest experience up to that point.
As a female owner of an auto parts store in Wisconsin, she said she deals with discrimination from customers who don’t think a woman is qualified to work on cars.
She said people usually lose that discrimination through education.

Cross-examination: None.

Evidence introduced: Family photos, Jessie Albert’s obituary.

Stephen Page
Relationship to case: Bedford’s brother.

Testimony: He and Bedford did just about everything together growing up, and they worked together one summer at an animal shelter to save up money for school clothes.
He’s lived in Clovis and Portales most of his life, and said he believed some racism existed.
The death of their mother was a hard experience. “He cried like a baby, we all did,” Page said. “As I can remember (Stanley) cried the worst.”

Cross-examination: The two weren’t as close once high school came around. Later in life, there were some aspects of Bedford’s life he chose not to talk with his brother about. The two pretty much led different lives as adults.

Cathy Joiner
Relationship to case: Cousin of Bedford.

Testimony: She is Bedford’s second cousin, but she views him as a brother.
She grew up when Clovis was desegregating schools, and there was racial tension. “We stayed on our side of town, they stayed on their side,” she said. “People don’t want to deal with that, but it was the truth.”
During summers, Bedford went to vacation Bible school with his siblings. She knew he had trouble in school and he sometimes asked her for help.

Cross-examination: Joiner is five years older than Bedford and didn’t attend school with her cousin.
She has lived in Albuquerque for 17 years and isn’t aware of current racial tensions in eastern New Mexico.

Rachel Page
Relationship to case: Sister-in-law to Bedford, Stephen Page’s wife.

Testimony: She has known Bedford for about 30 years, as they grew up in the same neighborhood.
She spent most of her time with Stephen Page and became pregnant at age 15. She was given a choice to marry Page or have an abortion, and she chose marriage. It is a mixed-race marriage and many in Clovis openly voiced their disapproval.
She said that treatment isn’t as bad anymore, but sometimes, “You can tell they look at you different.” Works with Jerry Fuller’s mother in Clovis, and said the two have discussed their connections to the case. The two have differences, but have supported each other throughout.

Cross-examination: None.

Gwen Thomas
Relationship to case: Cousin of Bedford.

Testimony: Bedford never complained, was normally pretty quiet, and she’d never seen him angry.

Cross-examination: Thomas has not seen Bedford since February 2005 and didn’t spend a great deal of time with him in the last five-plus years. When she did see him, she saw no difference in demeanor.

Brittni Page
Relationship to case: Niece of Bedford. Daughter of Stephen and Rachel Page.

Testimony: She would see Bedford on holidays and was always happy to see him. She’s known him and had a relationship as long as she can remember.

Cross-examination: She has not seen Bedford in more than two years, and hasn’t seen him more than about five times.

Brian Page
Relationship to case: Nephew of Bedford. Son of Stephen and Rachel Page.

Testimony: Has known Bedford since he was about 2 years old. He sees his uncle whenever he can, and his uncle tells him to do well in school and stay out of trouble.

Cross-examination: Page was asked if his uncle said it was important to stay out of trouble so you don’t “get caught in the system.” He answered yes, but said he knew that himself.

Stephen Page Jr.
Relationship to case: Nephew of Bedford. Son of Stephen and Rachel Page.

Testimony: He has known Bedford as long as he can remember. His uncle would play catch with him, and always told him to do well in school.

Cross-examination: He was asked if he ever knew his uncle as B.G., and he said no. He hasn’t seen Bedford for two years and would often go months without seeing him.

Nathaniel Bedford
Relationship to case: Uncle of Bedford. Brother of Jessie May Albert.

Testimony: His grandmother came to Texas through the slave trade, but taught her family to be forgiving and “let God take control.”
He fished with Stanley Bedford when he was young, and kept in touch with him via phone in the later years.
Jessie Albert was his sister, but she was like a mother to everybody.
He is a pastor and school employee in Roseback, Texas. He often mentors in spiritual terms.

Cross-examination: He has never lived in Clovis or Portales, and has visited four times — 1998 the most recent. There is a gap of about 30 years between the last time he saw much of his nephew.

— Compiled by Kevin Wilson, Freeom Newspapers