Roger Gage’s confession following the murder of April Browne, Kieran Guillemin and Abraham Martinez in May 2018 will be heard by a jury, despite defense council attempts to suppress it.
Gage and his brother John Powell were both charged with three counts of first degree murder, one count of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit first degree murder and tampering with evidence in a capital offense.
New Mexico State Police alleged that the brothers walked into Browne’s home and shot her and the other two men in the head, killing them before stealing drugs, cash and other property, a previous Rio Grande SUN article states.
The two are set to go to trial in October, but there may be delays if defense attorneys are not able to process a DVR retrieved from Browne’s home.
The DVR, part of a home security system, was recording in Browne’s bedroom as the three victims were executed.
Law Office of the Public Defender Attorney Craig Hay told First Judicial District Court Judge Jason Lidyard the defense had only recently become aware that in addition to the excerpts of video processed by State Police that the prosecution planned to admit as evidence, the DVR also contained footage for days approximately up to a month prior to the murders.
Hay said the defense was trying to figure out a way to process the video to be able to view it, since the DVR used a proprietary software the defense team cannot access.
Lidyard asked multiple questions concerning the processing, but ultimately Chief Deputy District Attorney Anastasia Martin told the court that a State Police sergeant explained to her their office did not normally process video to assist defense.
The DVR issues were discussed Tuesday during a status conference and docket call in the First Judicial District Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla.
Santa Fe-based Attorney Tom Clark asked the court if prosecutors could provide a list of evidence they planned to introduce during the trial so the defense would be able to file any objections prior to the trial’s start.
“There are hundreds and hundreds, even thousands (of possible exhibits),” Clark said.
Martin said her office would be happy to comply with Clark’s request and would not require a formal order from the court.
Additionally, Lidyard heard concerns about witness interviews that had not yet been conducted and a need for prosecutors and defense to communicate about which interviews or recordings each team was transcribing so neither wasted resources creating duplicate work.
Both sides agreed to email the court by the end of the week and report on progress concerning witness interviews, DVR processing and other minor issues.
Clark filed a motion July 26 to suppress Gage’s statements to State Police, in part because Gage was allegedly under the influence of heroin and possibly methamphetamine at the time.
The motion asked the court to find that all of Gage’s statements should be withheld from a jury because he was not adequately advised of his Miranda Rights, because his waiver of those rights was not made with “a full awareness” of the rights and because he was intoxicated, and therefore his statements were involuntary.
“The Defendant argues that the police officer forced him to confess to his involvement in the murders,” Clark wrote. “Gage’s long drug addiction combined with drug use at the time of the interview rendered him incapable of any voluntary confession whether truthful or otherwise.”
After considering the case, Lidyard ruled that Gage’s Miranda Rights had not been violated and that he made and informed decision to waive his right to remain silent.
He furthermore found that Gage was not obviously intoxicated despite admitting to having used heroin approximately four hours before his interview and subsequent confession. Lidyard noted Gage answered questions attentively during the interview and as well.
Sydney West and Craig Hay, who represent Powell, filed an Aug. 19 motion in support of suppressing Gage’s statements, and asking that the court separate the two defendants for trial if the motion to suppress was denied.
A hearing to consider the motion to sever the cases is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 17 in the First Judicial District Court.
Trials for both Gage and Powell are set to begin Oct. 8 in Tierra Amarilla.