Court overturns lesser evidence tampering offense
FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the August 2013 conviction of Donovan King for first-degree murder, but overturned his conviction on the lesser offense of evidence tampering.
As previously reported, Kevin Lossiah was found severely beaten in his apartment the morning of May 29, 2011, and later died at the San Juan Regional Medical Center.
King and co-defendant Justin Mark were seen by neighbors near the apartment before Lossiah's death. Both men later were found in the area drunk, disheveled and covered in blood that tested positive for Lossiah's DNA.
According to the court's opinion, published Thursday, the Farmington police detective who investigated Lossiah's murder promised King the evidence tampering charge would be dismissed if King showed the detective where the murder weapon, a tree branch, was located.
The detective made the promise after speaking with a prosecutor from the San Juan County District Attorney's Office, who had the authority to make such a deal, the opinion states.
King showed the detective where the murder weapon was located, but nonetheless was charged with and convicted of evidence tampering, the opinion states.
"(The) defendant performed on his promise; the prosecutor did not," the opinion states.
The justices overturned the evidence tampering conviction on the basis of that broken promise.
The justices ordered Aztec district Judge John Dean, who sentenced King to a life sentence plus 18 years in September 2013, to resentence King.
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said Friday the order would result in King's sentence being reduced by three years.
New Mexico Chief Public Defender Jorge Alvarado represented King on appeal. He could not be reached for comment.
As previously reported, the Supreme Court upheld Mark's murder conviction in April.