Retrial hearing Monday for alleged killer

New Mexico Department of Corrections photo Robert Macias will remain in the custody of the Department of Corrections pending the outcome of a new trial.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Robert “Pelon” Macias is about to be tried a second time for the shooting death of 19-year-old Wilfred Salas Jr. of Clovis.

A 9 a.m. hearing Monday in the 9th Judicial District Court marks the beginning of the new case against Macias after his 2007 first-degree murder conviction was overturned in May by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Macias was serving a life-term.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said the court denied an Attorney General’s appeal and sent the case back for a new trial.

In its original ruling, the court cited as an error a decision by now-retired District Judge Joe Parker to allow a two-minute telephone call entered as evidence.

Justices said recorded telephone conversations between Macias’ girlfriend and her cousin discussing the killing should not have been played for the jury because their statements were hearsay.

The cousin was in jail at the time.

The girlfriend, Jessica Gutierrez, talked to Macias the night of the killing. Later in a telephone call to her cousin, Gutierrez told about Macias making admissions to her.

Police found Salas slumped over in the driver’s seat at a parking lot near Merriwether and Seventh streets with a gunshot wound to the back of the head. He died later at a Lubbock hospital.

Macias, 33, was also convicted of shooting at a motor vehicle and sentenced to an additional 22 years.

Evidence presented in his 2007 trial indicated he overheard Salas making fun of him and later shot at Salas’ passing car as he drove on Merriwether Street.

An eyewitness, Daniel Garcia, testified he was with Macias and also shot at the car. Garcia said his gun misfired, but Macias’ gun fired and hit the car.

Chandler said while he was disappointed in the state supreme court’s decision, “We will move forward and anticipate the exact same results.”

At Monday’s hearing, Chandler said he plans to request trial dates and begin the process toward trial.

Macias will be given an opportunity at the hearing to request a new attorney.

Though the process starts over again, Chandler said the case likely won’t take as long to get to trial as the original case.

“All of the evidence is already tested, all of the witnesses have already given their testimony,” he said.

“We essentially have to give an instant replay minus the two-minute phone call that the supreme court said was in error.”

Witnesses will be brought back to testify and Chandler said he doesn’t anticipate difficulty locating them because, “A majority of the witnesses that testified are actually in the criminal justice system.”

And in those instances where a witness is unavailable or has changed their story, Chandler said trial rules will allow their former testimony to be brought before the jury.

Macias remains in the custody of the Department of Corrections, pending the outcome of the trial, Chandler said.