Mental state questioned in Bloomfield shooting

Steve Garrison
Defendant Charmaine Lucero talks to her attorney Matthew Cockman during a March 24 hearing at District Court in Aztec.

FARMINGTON – Charmaine Lucero's sentencing for first-degree attempted murder was delayed Thursday due to a last-minute court filing raising concerns about the 26-year-old woman's mental competency.

District public defender Matthew Cockman filed the motion with the court Wednesday afternoon requesting that Lucero undergo a mental competency evaluation before she is sentenced in the shooting of a 27-year-old man last spring outside the Farmers Market grocery store in Bloomfield.

Cockman states in the motion he has reason to believe Lucero is not competent.

Lucero was set to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Thursday, but Judge John Dean canceled the hearing pending an evaluation.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said that while it is unusual for an attorney to question competency after a defendant has entered into a plea agreement, it was within the defense's right to do so.

"The statute says that any party can raise competency at any stage of the proceedings," he said. "It's perfectly within the law at any stage to raise it."

O'Brien said if Lucero is found to be incompetent, it may also call into question the validity of her plea agreement.

Lucero pleaded no contest in early March to attempted murder and evidence tampering in a plea agreement and faces up to 10 1/2 years in prison.

Dean agreed to delay the sentencing of Lucero at a March 24 hearing so that Cockman could file a memorandum that would detail for the court Lucero's "fairly storied life." But Dean warned Lucero he was ready to order the maximum sentence.

Cameron Burton — the man shot outside the Farmers Market — requested that Lucero receive the maximum sentence. He said he was shot in the cheek, and the bullet narrowly avoided his jaw and ear drum.

Cockman could not be reached Thursday for comment.

O'Brien said a mental health professional would evaluate Lucero and determine whether she is mentally competent. The standard for determining mental competency is whether the defendant can rationally assist in his or her defense. O'Brien said the evaluation can take up to two or three months.

He said if Lucero is found incompetent, she will be institutionalized and will receive mental health treatment until she is found competent.

If she is still incompetent after treatment, she can be institutionalized for up to 10 1/2 years, according to O'Brien.

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