Farmington man's murder conviction upheld by NM Supreme Court
FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday upheld the November 2012 conviction of Justin Mark for first-degree murder.
The court rejected all claims of appeal made by Mark in a unpublished decision, effectively guaranteeing that the 27-year-old man will serve a sentence of life in prison, with parole possible after 30 years of incarceration.
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said Mark could file a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his incarceration, but it would likely raise the same issues rejected by the court on appeal.
Mark was arrested with co-conspirator Donovan King on May 29, 2011, and charged in the slaying of Kevin Lossiah at his apartment at 2700 Apache St. in Farmington.
Mark and King were accused of breaking into Lossiah's apartment on the day in question and brutally beating the 40-year-old man to death in his living room. The men then absconded with several of his possessions, according to court records.
Farmington police detectives arrested the men, who were bloody, disheveled and drunk, as they were walking in the area where the murder occurred, records state. The blood found on the men's clothing tested positive for Lossiah's DNA.
Mark confessed to participating in the murder, according to the Supreme Court's decision, but the confession was found by Chief District Judge John Dean to be inadmissable because Mark never waived his Miranda rights.
However, San Juan County prosecutors were still allowed to use as evidence items located based on Mark's statements, including the wooden club Mark used to beat Lossiah to death.
Mark claimed in his appeal that those items should not have been used as evidence because they were found as a result of his involuntary statements to police.
The supreme court judges disagreed and ruled that though Mark's statements were inadmissable as evidence, police did not coerce Mark into speaking and therefore his statements were voluntary.
O'Brien said the evidentiary challenge was the most concerning issue raised in the appeal.
The court also rejected arguments Mark made regarding testimony by a forensic pathologist and jury instructions.
According to court records, attorney Robert E. Tangora of Santa Fe represented Mark in his appeal.
He could not be reached for comment Monday.