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Defense wants evidence axed in 8-year-old’s murder case

Posted by tothewire on December 26, 2008

St. Johns Justice Court  The Courthouse is located at 70 West 3rd South

St. Johns Justice Court The Courthouse is located at 70 West 3rd South

ST. JOHNS — The attorneys for Christian Ryan Romero, the 8-year-old boy charged with killing his father Vincent Romero and his father’s friend Tim Romans in St. Johns, submitted a motion to suppress all evidence taken from Romero’s home.

Ronald D. Wood of the Wood Law Office submitted the motion on Monday and it was docketed by the Apache County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The motion included a request for a hearing followed by an order suppressing all evidence seized from the Romero residence and evidence from subsequent warrants and searches.

Judge Butch L. Gunnels

Judge Butch L. Gunnels

The motion to suppress is based on a prior relationship between the judge issuing the first search warrant for the juvenile’s home and the Romeros. According to the motion, St. Johns ’ Magistrate Butch Gunnels signed the initial warrant. That warrant secured a weapon, spent cartridges, blood samples, photographs and most of the forensic material collected by the state, the defense stated.

Gunnels admitted to being friends with the victim and knowing the juvenile, the defense stated in the motion.

In an interview with St. Johns Police Department Detective Lucas Rodriguez that was cited in the motion, Rodriguez said that Gunnels told him he knew the victim and he couldn’t do the search warrants anymore.

“That warrant is invalid insofar as the magistrate that signed the warrant was friends with the victim and knew the Juvenile, and as a result of that relationship, relinquished his neutral and detached role under the 4th and 14th amendments to the United States’ Constitution and Article 2 § 8 of the Arizona Constitution,” the defense stated.

The defense further stated in the motion to suppress that the 4th amendment and Article 2 “require that a neutral and detached magistrate issue a warrant” and that the “Supreme Court has found an impressible lack of neutrality in cases where the particular magistrate was also involved in law enforcement activities, had a pecuniary interest in the outcome of his decision, or had ‘wholly abandoned’ his judicial role.”

In addition, the magistrate issuing the warrant was the requesting officer’s friend and training officer at the police department, the defense stated.

The defense asserted, “There is no neutral or detached magistrate to check the ardor of law enforcement on the trail of a suspect, real or imagined.”

By Karen Francis
Diné Bureau


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