Murder trial results in hung jury

Steve Garrison
Defendant Cody Soto listens on Jan. 20 during his trial at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec.

AZTEC — Jurors deliberated for about three and a half hours Monday afternoon before determining they could not reach a verdict in Cody Soto's trial on a murder charge.

Judge John Dean declared a hung jury at approximately 4:30 p.m. and the two-week trial ended in uncertainty.

An attorney for Soto, Liane Kerr, indicated that she would file a motion requesting that the judge review Soto's conditions of release, given the outcome of the trial. Soto is currently being held on bond at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.

Prosecutors told the judge they would oppose any changes to the conditions.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said he could not say whether the state would start the process for a new trial, citing a gag order Dean issued in December that bars attorneys from discussing the case.

Over the past two weeks, the state presented 21 witnesses and 115 exhibits to argue its case against Soto, who remains accused of first-degree murder on allegations he fatally stabbed his 29-year-old ex-girlfriend, Brandy Robinson, in June 2013.

Detectives from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office found Robinson's nude body dumped in a remote location near the Bisti Highway south of Farmington on June 22, 2013. A medical investigator previously testified that Robinson was stabbed and slashed 23 times, with two fatal wounds to the back and left breast.

Prosecutor David Cowen emphasized in his closing statement on Monday that the case against Soto relied on a motive, an opportunity and, most importantly, a confession.

Soto was "obsessed" with Robinson and upset when their relationship came to an end on June 13, according to prosecutors, and they said he had an eight-hour window of opportunity on the night of June 20 to murder Robinson.

Cowen told the jury that detectives interviewed several suspects during their investigation, but only Soto confessed under questioning in July 2013 to stabbing Robinson.

"This case is about the confession," Cowen said, adding later. "You saw the words come out of his mouth. You saw his body language and you saw his silence when it mattered most."

In her closing statements, also delivered on Monday, Kerr disputed that Soto confessed, arguing that he instead told detectives "stabbed her," or "stabbed her twice," rather than saying "I stabbed her" or "I stabbed her twice."

"If all the state has is this bogus confession, we are in trouble," Kerr said. "Each and every one of us."

She also hammered the state over the lack of forensic evidence tying Soto to the murder and suggested Robinson was killed by a "professional," pointing to evidence that Robinson was selling drugs and that her body appeared to be washed clean of evidence.

"The have no motive, they have no opportunity and they certainly have no confession," Kerr said.

 Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.