AZTEC — A hearing concerning how New Mexico's felony murder law affects the case against two men accused of starting a fatal shootout on Hopi Street in Farmington is set for next month.
Lawrence Kellywood, 26, and Levi Wilson, 31, were charged with felony murder and other crimes in connection to a shooting on July 27 on Hopi Street and Orchard Avenue that left Christopher Valdez, 40, dead.
Kellywood and Wilson allegedly fired shots at Michael Tafoya, who was in his home on Hopi Street, and Tafoya returned fire, according to court documents.
Prosecutors, in motions filed in November and December, said the felony murder charge filed against Kellywood and Wilson doesn't apply to the case because police are not sure whether Kellywood, Wilson or Tafoya fired the bullet the killed Valdez.
Arlon Stoker, Wilson's attorney, alleges in a motion that Tafoya fired the fatal shot.
The prosecution wants to challenge a 10-year-old New Mexico Court of Appeals ruling that felony murder can only be charged against a group of people if a person from that group killed someone while the group was committing a dangerous felony. Without proof that Kellywood or Wilson shot Valdez, it appears no one could be held responsible for his death.
In an attempt to change that law, San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said the prosecution's motion asks Chief District Judge John Dean to allow prosecutors to appeal the Court of Appeals ruling to the New Mexico Supreme Court, or for Dean to dismiss the murder charge so prosecutors could appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court before Wilson and Kellywood go to trial.
The motion hearing is Feb. 7.
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.