The New Mexico Supreme Court announced Monday it has upheld the first-degree murder convictions of a Northern New Mexico man for the 2018 slayings of three people in a home near Dixon but overturned three of his brother's convictions in the deaths.
Justices determined the six convictions for Roger Gage — three counts each of first-degree willful and deliberate murder and three counts of felony murder — violated constitutional protections against double jeopardy. They vacated the counts of felony murder.
“While only one capital sentence was imposed for each murder, under the judgment and sentence, Defendant stands convicted of six first-degree murder convictions for three killings,” Justice Michael E. Vigil wrote in the court's opinion.
Gage had raised the double jeopardy issue on appeal, and state prosecutors agreed the felony murder convictions should be vacated.
New Mexico law several types of first-degree murder charges. Felony murder is a killing that occurs in the commission of a felony or attempt to commit a felony.
Gage was sentenced to three terms of life in prison for the murder convictions and 21 years for convictions of aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence. The court upheld the additional charges.
A video surveillance system recorded the shooting deaths of a woman and two men after Gage and his brother, John Powell, entered a house in Rio Arriba County where drugs were sold.
The court rejected Gage's argument he should receive a new trial because of actions by the trial judge, Jason Lidyard, the court said in the news release. Gage had claimed Lidyard erred in denying a motion to suppress incriminating statements he had made to law enforcement after his arrest. He also argued the judge had wrongly refused to recuse himself from the case after Gage’s attorney was notified he would serve as a witness in a disciplinary proceeding involving matters that occurred when Lidyard was a prosecutor.
The justices concluded Gage failed to provide evidence he was “unfairly affected by Judge Lidyard’s supervision” of the murder case, the news release states.
The court also rejected Gage’s argument that receiving two life sentences for acting as an accomplice to murder was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. Surveillance video showed Gage shot one of the victims and his brother shot the other two victims.
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