AZTEC — Prosectors say that Dr. James Nordstrom nearly lost a finger as he held up his hand to try to protect himself from fatal blows raining down on his head.
But a close-up crime scene photo of that nearly severed finger won't be seen by a jury in the murder trial of John Mayes, who is accused of killing Nordstrom.
District Judge William Birdsall made his final ruling in a pretrial hearing Friday on what photos of Nordstrom's dead body can be used during Mayes' trial, which is scheduled to start Wednesday in Gallup.
Mayes is charged with an open count of murder and several other felonies in connection to Nordstrom's death. Nordstrom was beaten to death with a pool cue stick, and he was found under a wood pile outside his home in a Farmington Foothills neighborhood in June 2011.
Mayes, who was then 17, allegedly told police after his arrest that he killed the doctor and stole his wallet, according to court documents. Mayes said during a preliminary hearing that he acted in self defense.
Mayes, now 20, is the son of Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw had 10 photos of Nordstrom's body he planned to use at trial. Five were taken during the autopsy, and five were taken at Nordstrom's house after his body was found.
The photos "would be unduly prejudicial to the jury. And they would be shown to the jury just for that effect," Stephen Taylor, one of Mayes' attorneys, said during the court hearing.
Mayes' attorneys argued the autopsy report and trial testimony would be enough evidence to explain how Nordstrom died.
"The photograph is what (Mayes) did," Capshaw said in the hearing. "You can hit someone and kill him, but this thing was way brutal, way ugly, and it's part of it. These photos show what he did and how extensive it was."
Mayes' attorneys have indicated that they will argue in trial that their client was defending himself against Nordstrom's unwanted sexual advances.
Court documents show the prosecutors will argue that Mayes broke into Nordstrom's house intending to commit robbery and then hid in the doctor's room for a surprise attack.
"No one's disputing the fact that Mr. Mayes beat him to death with a pool cue," Birdsall said during Friday's hearing. "And no one is disputing that was the cause and manner of death. The issue is self defense."
Birdsall ruled the five autopsy photos and a wide shot of Nordstrom taken right after he was found at the crime scene can be used at trial.
He ruled against four close-up photos taken from the crime scene. Those photos were close-up shots of Nordstrom's face, the top of his head and the back of his head. The other photo was the close-up of his hand taken from the crime scene. That photo showed Nordstrom had a nearly severed finger, which Capshsaw said indicated the doctor had his hand up in self-defense as he tried to protect himself from Mayes' blows.Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.