Crime

Prosecutor wants brothers in Cañoncito homicide case out of same cell

By Phaedra Haywood
phaywood@sfnewmexican.com
Posted 11/23/19

Imagine spending 23 hours a day locked in a cell with an accused killer who could be called to testify against you in your own upcoming murder trial.

Now imagine that person is your brother.

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Crime

Prosecutor wants brothers in Cañoncito homicide case out of same cell

Posted

Imagine spending 23 hours a day locked in a cell with an accused killer who could be called to testify against you in your own upcoming murder trial.

Now imagine that person is your brother.

John Powell and Roger Gage – brothers accused of killing three people in a Cañoncito home just east of Dixon in 2018 – are being held in the same cell in the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla.

But a state prosecutor is asking the court to move one of them to a different facility, contending that since a judge in October ruled they'll have separate trials, housing them together is no longer wise.

"The fact that both defendants have at least twenty-three (23) hour isolated access to a prospective defense witness provides copious opportunities for witness tampering," Chief Deputy District Attorney Anastasia Martin wrote in her Nov. 8 motion, asking that one of the men be moved.

"In addition both defendants are presently charged with Tampering of Evidence charges, which provides even greater substantiation that justice will be obstructed if their detention arrangements remain the same," Martin continued in her motion. "This constant and overwhelming opportunity to obstruct justice in these serious criminal matters warrants the transfer ... to a different and separate county detention center."

Martin says in her motion she doesn't care which man is moved.

Powell, 35, and Gage, 34, each face three counts of first-degree murder in what prosecutors have called drug-related slayings, as well as charges of burglary, conspiracy and tampering with evidence.

State police found the bodies of April Browne, 42; Abraham Martinez, 36; and Kierin Guillemin, 27, shot to death inside Browne's home on State Road 580 in late May 2018. The brothers were arrested a few days later.

Video from a surveillance camera in the home showed Powell and Gage shot each victim in the head, then stole items from the home, according to police.

State District Judge Jason Lidyard agreed last month to separate the brothers' cases, as requested in a motion filed by Gage's defense attorney, Tom Clark.

Clark's motion, filed in July, said the brothers may have made conflicting statements to authorities, incriminating each other.

In another wrinkle in the case, Clark in September asked Lidyard to recuse himself because Clark has been notified that he is a potential witness in a pending Disciplinary Board case in which First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna has accused Lidyard of withholding key documents in a murder case when Lidyard was working in Serna's office as a prosecutor.

Clark, who did not return a call seeking comment Friday, represented the defendant in the case in which Serna has accused Lidyard of wrongdoing.

Lidyard denied Clark's request, writing in an Oct. 21 order that the rules don't require him to recuse himself in the scenario.

"Since this judge would not, and will not, retaliate against defense counsel, the only grounds to recuse would be if a bias or prejudice existed," Lidyard wrote. "Because this judge holds no bias or prejudice toward defense counsel, the request for recusal is denied."

Clark and Martin have since filed a joint motion asking Lidyard to reconsider his ruling.

The lawyers asked to file the motion under seal, but Lidyard denied that motion as well, ruling insufficient grounds existed to justify keeping the motion from public view.

In that motion, Clark said he has already provided evidence in the disciplinary board case which "could be contrary to the interests" of the judge and that his role as a witness in the proceeding has placed him in "an impossible situation" in which he is a witness against the judge who will have sentencing authority over his client in the case.

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