Evidence heard on bond reduction in murder case

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

AZTEC – A judge heard evidence today on a motion that would reduce or eliminate a bond for Cody Soto, who is accused of murder in the death of his 29-year-old ex-girlfriend in 2013.

Judge John Dean also heard evidence on the defense's motion to hold the trial, scheduled to begin July 12, in a different county.

Soto, 26, is being held on a $500,000 cash-only bond on allegations he stabbed Brandy Robinson to death in June 2013 and dumped her nude body in a remote location near the Bisti Highway.

Prosecutors presented evidence at a nearly two-week trial that ended Feb. 1 in a hung jury.

Defense attorney Liane Kerr argued at the motion hearing today that the weight of the evidence, or lack thereof, favored releasing Soto. She pointed to the fact that there was no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony that tied Soto to the murder.

She called an alleged confession by Soto a "coerced statement."

Kerr said Soto would live in Aztec with his mother if he were released from jail.

Prosecutor David Cowen argued Soto had violated the terms of his release in a prior criminal case, in which he was accused of beating up Robinson at a residence in San Juan County. Cowen said Soto was released in that case on June 20, 2013, a week after the incident, and immediately contacted Robinson and began using methamphetamine.

Kerr said it was Robinson who contacted Soto after he was released from jail.

Cowen also said Soto had a prior criminal record. He was convicted in June 2011 in Coconino County, Ariz., of aggravated assault on a minor. He violated the terms of his probation in that case, and it was revoked on Nov. 7, 2011, according to court records.

The defense further argued at today's hearing that Soto would not be able to obtain a fair trial in San Juan County due to prejudicial news coverage of the trial.

Kerr entered as evidence articles that appeared in The Daily Times and comments from the newspaper's Facebook account that she claimed were biased against the defendant.

Cowen argued Soto had gotten a fair trial in January and pointed to other high-profile cases in San Juan County in which the media coverage did not appear to impact the fairness of the trial.

Dean did not rule on either motion.

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