Steven Duran, left, was convicted of killing his friend, Ricardo Gallegos, two years ago. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
Steven Duran maintained his innocence as he was sentenced to at least 48 1/2 years in prison for killing his friend almost two years ago.
Ninth Judicial District Judge Joe Parker sentenced Duran on Tuesday to the maximum time possible under New Mexico law. Parker did not elaborate on his decision during or after the trial.
Duran, 36, accused the prosecution of manipulating testimony during the trial.
“I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I didn’t do this,” said Duran, standing beside his attorney, Gary Mitchell.
Duran was convicted by a jury in September of shooting and killing Ricardo Gallegos, 47, inside a trailer in the 1000 block of Sunrise in 2004.
Cindy Gallegos, sister of the victim, addressed the court during the hearing.
“If this is how Duran treats friends and family, I’d hate to see how he treats his enemies,” she said.
Duran’s sister, Olivia Duran, said she didn’t think it was fair that her brother’s previous conviction of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of his father in 1991 was discussed in court.
“They always bring up my dad. It was an accident,” Olivia Duran said of her father’s death.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler told the court Duran was a habitual offender and should get the maximum penalty allowed.
“Two people have died at the hands at Steven Duran,” said Chandler. It’s not safe for Duran to be free in the community, he said.
Mitchell said Duran’s first-degree murder conviction involves a mandatory life sentence.
“The judge (Parker) didn’t have much choice,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell plans to appeal the decision in the next 30 days, and awaits results of DNA collected two years ago, which may free Duran, he said.
Along with first-degree murder, the jury found Duran guilty of possessing a gun as a felon, and possessing methamphetamine, heroin and drug paraphernalia.
Parker sentenced Duran to 18 1/2 years for the additional charges. Chandler said Duran would not be eligible for parole for 48 1/2 years.
Chandler said the way he handled his diagnostic evaluation after he was convicted showed that Duran has learned little from his time in the system.
Chandler said Duran failed to comply with his mandatory diagnostic evaluation and fought with another inmate, Chandler said. The evaluation aids the court in determining a sentence, Chandler said.
Duran will be transported immediately to the Department of Corrections central intake in Los Lunas, where the level of security in which he will be held will be determined, Chandler said.