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Death Takes a Holiday

A technicality stalls the state's first decision under a new death-penalty law.

Prosecution witness Quintana testified that after the gang decided to kill Duvall to prevent her from identifying them, she was taken to the mountains in his car. With him were Francisco Martinez, in the front passenger seat, and Daniel Martinez and Frank Vigil in the back with Duvall between them.

On the way, Quintana said, Francisco Martinez reached back and tried to strangle Duvall. When she fought back, he stabbed her several times. Reaching their destination, a pulloff above Clear Creek, Duvall was stabbed 28 times in the back and neck by Francisco Martinez while Quintana held her head. The two men then threw her off the embankment toward the creek, where she bled to death from cuts to her carotid artery and jugular vein.

Duvall's body was discovered the next day by two men on their way to Central City. Francisco Martinez, Frank Vigil, Samuel Quintana, Daniel Martinez, David and Maurice Warren and Jacob Casados were arrested and charged with her murder.

Frank Vigil, at sixteen years old the youngest defendant, was convicted in January of first-degree murder and sexual-assault charges. The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office did not seek the death penalty in his case; instead, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His case is being appealed.

Daniel Martinez was scheduled to be tried in November, but his case has been continued until February; the prosecution is seeking the death penalty for him. All the other young men involved accepted plea agreements in exchange for their testimony against the others.

Quintana pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for his part in the Duvall case and in the June 1996 killing of Venus Montoya in Lakewood ("The Gang's All Here," July 17) and agreed to testify for the prosecution. In exchange, the first-degree-murder charges were dropped--removing the threat of the death penalty or life without parole (the prosecution has stated it will seek the maximum of 96 years).

Quintana also testified against fellow CMG member Alejandro "Speed" Ornelas, who was convicted in May of Montoya's murder and sentenced to life without parole. Alejandro's brother, Gerard, who drove the getaway car the night Montoya was murdered, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and was sentenced to twenty years.

Maurice Warren, David Warren and Jacob Casados all pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault and testified for the prosecution against Vigil and Francisco Martinez. Maurice Warren faces a sentence of ten to sixteen years in prison; David Warren and Casados each face sentences of 10 to 32 years.

During closing arguments in Martinez's trial, defense attorney Kaplan reminded the jurors--though they would not be deciding Martinez's fate--of what could happen. "The death penalty permeates this courtroom," he said. "It's about death."

At the end of his trial, Francisco Martinez showed little emotion other than to bow his head briefly before looking up again as Judge Villano announced the verdict. Martinez's family members yelled "No, no" from the spectator gallery, breaking into sobs and wails as the judge continued to read off the guilty counts. When Martinez stood to be handcuffed and led to jail by deputies, a woman shouted, "We love you, Pancho. We love you." Only then did he look back and give a nod to his supporters before leaving the courtroom.

On the other side of the courtroom, Brandy Duvall's family and friends looked on quietly, some weeping. Later, Duvall's mother, Angela Metzger, told reporters that while she was satisfied with the verdict, she had no opinion on the death penalty. "None of this will bring her back," said Metzger, who has had to testify at and sit through two brutally graphic trials and still has another to deal with.

The new law was bound to run into trouble its first time out. And it promises to produce volumes of appeals in the future. It wasn't long after the verdict was read, with Martinez's family still sobbing loudly, that the defense team fired the first salvo. They made an oral motion asking Villano to order that the judges in the case not read or watch any news accounts about the case--an admonishment usually given to juries, not jurists.

Attorney Kaplan said there were still questions as to whether the new penalty phase would be in the form of a trial or an appellate panel, suggesting that the judges could overturn the decision.

The defense team also asked that the judges, including Villano (who had heard evidence that had been withheld from the jury) not talk among themselves without counsel being present. A perturbed Villano said he would take the matter under consideration.

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