On the night of Jan. 4, 2010, three gang members murdered a young traveler who had pulled into the Anthony, N.M., rest stop seeking only a quiet place to sleep. They robbed Adam Espinoza of his possessions, stuffed his body in the trunk of his car and then set it ablaze.

It was as brutal and senseless a crime as has been committed in this area in quite some time.

All three of the perpetrators were arrested and convicted. The triggerman, Irvin Ramirez, was found guilty of first-degree murder and five related charges after a week-long trial. A fingerprint on the rifle used to kill Espinoza matched Ramirez's right index finger.

Third Judicial District Chief Judge Jerald A. Valentine sentenced Ramirez to life in prison on the murder conviction, plus an additional 10 1/2 years on the other charges armed robbery, conspiracy, arson, tampering with evidence and disposing of stolen property.

The conviction brought an end to a criminal career that had started when Ramirez was 13 years old. While awaiting trial, Ramirez had been the aggressor in six violent incidents at the J. Paul Taylor Juvenile Detention Center, according to officials there. When given the chance to express remorse at sentencing, a defiant Ramirez lashed out instead.

"I don't appreciate them calling me a 'so-called human being,'" he said.

It's hard to imagine a defendant more deserving of the lengthy sentence handed down, or one more reviled by our community.

And so, when it was announced recently that the Supreme Court would hear an appeal to Ramirez's conviction, the outrage many have expressed was understandable.

The appeal alleges improper jury instructions and the admission of testimony that should have been excluded. The state agrees that the conviction for armed robbery should be vacated, but says other charges should be upheld. Ramirez's trial was fair, though not error free, the state attorney general's staff said.

We are absolutely convinced that the evidence against Ramirez is conclusive. Even if the high court were to rule in his favor, a new trial would be scheduled and the result would be the same.

And so why bother?

Because the laws in place to protect Ramirez are the same laws that would protect all of us. We are all entitled to equal justice under the law.

That applies even in the most heinous of crimes.

Ramirez was convicted and sent to prison for his crimes. If the case were to be re-tried, we're confident that justice will be served again. It's unfortunate it will cost the system and ultimately the taxpayers more of its precious resources.

Las Cruces Sun-News, April 16