GALLUP — After deliberating for more than 10 hours over two days, a jury on Monday convicted John Mayes of second-degree murder in the 2012 death of Dr. James Nordstrom.
Jurors found him not guilty of first-degree murder, which would have made Mayes a "serious youthful offender" and required the court to hand down a life sentence, said Stephen Taylor, Mayes' attorney.
Prosecutors said Mayes could still get a maximum sentence of 31½ years in prison if the judge sentences him to the maximum on each count and orders the sentences to be served consecutively.
Mayes' attorneys will argue in future hearings that Mayes should receive a much lesser sentence. They intend to argue that the court should take into consideration Mayes was 17 years old at the time of the crime and that there were mitigating circumstances to the attack, Taylor said.
"For us, the difference between a first-degree murder conviction and a second is the difference between a life sentence and the chance to have a life in a few years," he said.
A relative of Nordstrom's reached by telephone Monday declined to comment. Rob Mayes did not return a call for comment.
"We still have more work to do," District Judge William Birdsall said at the close of court on Monday.
Mayes, the 20 year old adopted son of Farmington city manager Rob Mayes, went on trial in Gallup on Nov. 13. On Friday, the jury convicted him on the lesser charges of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, fraudulent use of a credit card and attempted residential burglary in connection with Nordstrom's death on June 9, 2011. The jury also found him not guilty of manslaughter.
The jury left for the weekend, returned to court at 8:30 a.m. Monday and deliberated for two more hours before handing down the second-degree murder conviction.
The lesser charges could carry a sentence of up to 16 1/2 years in prison, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said. A second-degree murder conviction is punishable by up to 15 years. It would be possible for Mayes to reduce his time in prison for each charge with "good time" credit, Capshaw said.
Taylor said that because Mayes was arrested and charged with an open count of murder, he was an alleged serious youthful offender, which means he was tried as an adult and the court wouldn't consider his age if convicted of first-degree murder. Taylor said when the jury found Mayes not guilty of first-degree murder, it opened the door for Birdsall to either sentence him as a juvenile, or sentence him as an adult but also consider Mayes' age and other factors, such as his diagnosed mental disorder, when handing down a sentence.
During Mayes' trial, prosecutors put forth evidence that Mayes broke into Nordstrom's home during a burglary. When Mayes saw Nordstrom was watching television, he armed himself with a pool cue and waited in the bedroom, where he attacked the doctor and bludgeoned him to death, they said.
After killing Nordstrom, Mayes buried the doctor underneath a wood pile near his home in the Farmington Foothills neighborhood. He took the doctor's truck and wallet and charged more than $3,000 to his credit cards.
Mayes' attorneys argued their client was acting in self defense from an unwanted sexual advance. They also had his counselor and a forensic psychiatrist testify that Mayes suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, because of severe neglect and possible abuse he suffered as a young boy in the Ukraine before he was adopted.
Carol Mayes, John Mayes' mother, testified about the horrible living conditions for Mayes and his biological sister she observed when they adopted them from the Ukraine in 1998. She also described John Mayes' lifelong inability to form human attachments.
To have convicted Mayes of first-degree murder, the jury would have had to found Mayes either killed Nordstrom with the deliberate intent to take away his life, or he killed Nordstrom while committing aggravated burglary in a manner that was dangerous to human life, according to the jury instructions.
The second-degree murder conviction means the jury found Mayes knew his actions created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm and that he wasn't sufficiently provoked and did not act in self defense.
Mayes' attorneys will use evidence of the medical disorder and neglect at an amenability hearing, which will determine whether Mayes will be sentenced in juvenile or adult court, Taylor said. If Birdsall moves the case to juvenile court, Mayes could only be incarcerated until he is 21 years old, which is less than a year.
Capshaw said that scenario is unlikely because the court would need mental health experts to testify to the likelihood that they can treat Mayes' disorder in that time.
"They are going to be looking at if they can fix him in the six or eight months," Capshaw said. "We'll take it seriously ... But they are not going to be able to meet that burden."
All jurors declined to be interviewed after the trial. One juror spoke with Capshaw and said 10 jurors wanted to convict Mayes of first-degree murder and two jurors wanted to convict him of second-degree murder, he said. Capshaw said the juror told him the 10 eventually decided to hand down the second-degree murder instead of ending with a hung jury, which would have meant Mayes could be retried.
Mayes' attorneys filed a motion Monday morning to acquit their client of the murder conviction because of a procedural error the jury made.
The defense motions states the jury was instructed to only consider manslaughter charges -- which they acquitted him of on Friday -- after acquitting Mayes of first or second-degree murder.
"The jury's verdict of Not Guilty on the lesser included offense of Manslaughter precludes a verdict on either of the greater included homicide offenses," the motion states. "Double jeopardy precludes further proceedings on the greater included offenses."
Birdsall declined to hear arguments on the defense's motion on Monday. He said the hearing will set for a later date.
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.