By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
ALBUQUERQUE — The defense team for Stanley Bedford finished its mitigation argument Monday, as jurors heard a long day of testimony from family members and a psychiatrist on Bedford’s past and still undecided future.
The jury convicted Bedford, 43, nearly two weeks ago of murder, kidnapping and other charges in connection with the March 3, 2005, deaths of Odis and Doris Newman of Portales.
The state will begin its rebuttal today, then the jurors will decide if Bedford will face the death penalty or a judge-imposed sentence of 120 years. Only a unanimous vote by jurors would make Bedford the third man on the state’s death row.
Most of the testimony jurors heard Monday came from Eric Westfried, a clinical psychologist who performed tests on Bedford in early 2006. The testing revealed difficulties for Bedford in cognitive thinking and problem solving.
Grade-school records, Westfried said, showed Bedford was repeatedly noted by teachers as hard-working with a good attitude, but he was limited in what he learned. An achievement test administered in fifth grade, Westfried said, placed him nearly two grades lower in development.
“As time moved on, his grades got worse,” Westfried said, “which suggests to me he wasn’t keeping up and he wasn’t getting any special attention.”
Westfried also said results showed Bedford could easily be coerced into following along and would do well in a structured environment.
Over objections from the defense, District Attorney Matt Chandler had a lengthy cross-examination with Westfried, citing portions mentioning Bedford’s criminal history. Many of the convictions, Chandler argued, were evidence Bedford had failed in structured environments such as correctional facilities and a family his relatives testified as being normal.
With the jury out of the courtroom, defense attorney Gary Mitchell argued Chandler’s questioning about criminal record was an improper foundation because Westfried testified only about cognitive tests. He continued the objection during a 90-minute cross-examination.
“We’ve reached the point of no return, and counsel knows it,” Mitchell said. “We dealt with cognitive functions, not this.”
Chandler said he had a right to question Westfried on items in the report, since they helped him come to his overall conclusions. He also argued many of Westfried’s findings were flawed because when Mitchell contacted Westfried for the test, he did not provide information about a childhood mental health examination of Bedford or documentation of criminal incidents in Bedford’s past.
Westfried agreed with Chandler that unflattering accounts of Bedford’s life were minimized by Bedford himself in interviews. But Westfried balked at calling statements deceptive because many statements were Bedford’s best recollection and other statements were formulated in his own mind as a defense mechanism so he didn’t appear to be abnormal.
Highlights from Monday’s testimony in the Stanley Bedford homicide case:
Relationship to case: Brother of Bedford.
Testimony: He was the youngest of Jessie Albert’s children, six years younger than Stanley Bedford. His mother usually worked two jobs.
They got some food stamp assistance and were “sort of poor, but we were surviving.” He and his siblings would do odd jobs around Clovis to help out financially.
Cross-examination: He grew up in the same neighborhood as State Police Agent Josh Armijo, a main investigator in the deaths of Odis and Doris Newman.
He’d never heard Bedford refer to himself as “B.G.” He has never been convicted of a crime; he said his mother’s whoppings were enough to convince him to behave.
Relationship to case: Uncle of Stanley Bedford.
Testimony: He lived near Waco, Texas with the family when Jessie Albert moved to Clovis, and he said he was saddened because she was like a mother to him and her moving left a void in his life.
He tried to view Albert’s children equally, but Stanley was different because Stanley Joe Bedford was named after him. If he could continue to visit his nephew in prison, he would go regardless of distance because he wants to bring him into the Lord. “I’m going to talk to Stanley about turning his life around. The only thing that can turn Stanley’s life around is the cross.”
Cross-examination: He was not aware that his nephew has identified himself before as Stanley Dean Bedford and said that would be a surprise.
Relationship to case: Formerly with the state Court of Appeals, served on a death penalty task force. Her testimony was not heard by the jury, but was allowed by Judge Stephen Quinn because it would be an issue for the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Testimony: Wilson said she is about to complete a report about the racial makeup of defendants and victims in death penalty cases, using documentation from court records, the state department of corrections and interviews with defense attorneys.
Using 2000 state census data, 44.4 percent of New Mexicans are Anglo-American and 1.9 percent are African-American.
In the 207 cases where intent to seek the death penalty was filed, 38.2 percent of defendants were Anglo-American and 6.3 percent were African-American. Of the 49 cases that entered a penalty phase, seven were African-Americans. In her findings, African-Americans “go to trial more frequently, they are convicted more frequently, they go to the penalty phase more frequently.
Cross-examination: She did not contact District Attorney Matt Chandler or his predecessors because district attorneys historically don’t provide such information. In her findings, which were still in draft mode and had corrections to be made, she misidentified a second-degree murder plea for one man, identified the wrong judicial district for another, and the wrong ethnicity for another. She was at the mercy of the public information she can procure.
In the last 10 years, the state has sought the death penalty on four individuals: Bedford, Jerry Fuller, James Smith and Michael Treadway. Bedford is the only African-American, and the other three are Caucasian.
Relationship to case: Investigator with New Mexico State Police.
Testimony: Gave testimony to bank records that a credit card belonging to the Newmans was used March 3, 2005, at the Allsup’s on Chicago Avenue in Portales — the location gas was purchased before the car with the Newmans was burned. The amount was for $21.52.
Cross-examination: The bank records do not give a purchase time — only a calendar date and location. Armijo grew up in the same neighborhood as the Albert family and doesn’t remember a racist backdrop intimated by the defense.
Evidence introduced: Bank records from the Newman family.
Without the jury present, defense attorney Gary Mitchell said the bank records were necessary to give the jury evidence contradicting previous prosecution suggestions Bedford paid for the gasoline inside the convenience store.
Chandler argued the plan to kill the Newmans was formulated by Fuller and Bedford before they reached the store, and who paid for the fuel was irrelevant.