Court delays ruling for ax attack — (The Cortez Journal)

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The Cortez Journal

November 14, 2006

BY STEVE GRAZIER | Journal Staff Writer

Defense seeks mistrial for Archuleta case

Sentencing for convicted ax wielder Bryan Archuleta was postponed Monday until later this month due to a motion from the defense suggesting two jurors were confused on court instruction after the trial.

Archuleta’s defense attorney, Rae Dreves, requested that 22nd Judicial District Judge Sharon Hansen consider a mistrial from September’s court proceeding and schedule a new trial.

“Two jurors felt the final verdict was not what they intended it to be,” Dreves told the court Monday.

Archuleta, 23, was found guilty in September by a 14-member jury of first-degree assault with extreme indifference, and second-degree assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily harm.

The two felony charges combine for a minimum sentence of 16 years in prison, and a ceiling of 32 is the maximum penalty Archuleta can receive, according to Assistant District Attorney Andy Hughes, who argued for a penalty of 32 years in jail for the defendant.

“This unanimous verdict made perfect sense,” Hughes said. “At no point was there any indication of confusion or coercion in the trial.”

Dreves asked Hansen to sentence in accordance with the second-degree assault verdict, which ranges from five to 16 years in jail.

Monday morning’s sentencing hearing for Archuleta stemmed from an April 20, 2005, incident in which he attacked victim Thomas Antonio, 47, with an ax.

Among those speaking in favor of Archuleta during the hearing were his mother, sister, aunt, uncle and grandmother. Archuleta also spoke on his own behalf, in which he apologized to the court for his actions and expressed remorse to the victim.

“I can’t take back what I did,” he said. “When I drink I change; I’m not the same person.”

Archuleta and Antonio were cutting wood at a home approximately five miles east of Cortez near U.S. Highway 160 when the incident occurred, according to a court affidavit. Shortly after 10 p.m. the day of the incident, Archuleta and Antonio got into an argument and Archuleta struck Antonio in the chest with an ax, according to the affidavit.

Both men consumed at least two 24-ounce cans of High Gravity malt liquor and some shots of whisky after work and prior to the argument, according to Antonio’s recollection on the witness stand. Archuleta was 20 at the time of the dispute and was taking medication for depression.

“I don’t think he should be sentenced until a full case is investigated,” said Georgia Kellywood, Archuleta’s mother. “I don’t think my son is guilty. He’s a good boy who has problems.”

Dreves said it’s obvious alcohol was at the crux of the entire situation in April 2005. She added that the defendant has a “solid family” as a support base.

“I believe there is hope for this young man,” Dreves said.

The bottom line is the defendant is an adult who made a decision to get drunk and commit brutal crimes, Hughes said.

“This is the first time I’ve seen where someone took a full-sized ax and opened up another’s chest,” Hughes said.

Archuleta’s return for sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 28 in district court. No statements or arguments from the prosecution or defense are to be heard at the proceeding, Hansen said.

Reach Steve Grazier at steveg@cortezjournal.com.