Defense attacks testimony in murder trial

Esias Madrid is on trial on murder and other charges in the death of Jaydon Chavez-Silver, a 17-year-old Manzano High student who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2015. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Esias Madrid, 19, is on trial this week on murder and lesser charges in the death of Chavez-Silver, a 17-year-old Manzano High School student killed in a drive-by shooting in June 2015. Madrid refused to speak to police, so the opening arguments Tuesday were the public’s first glimpse at his side of the story.

According to prosecutors, Madrid and two others planned the shooting as retaliation against a man who lived at the Northeast Heights home where Chavez-Silver was partying with friends that night. The teen was hit by a bullet never intended for him.

Madrid’s attorney Daniel Salazar suggested that the state’s case hangs entirely on the testimony of Nicholas Gonzales, who was also charged in the teen’s killing. In a plea deal, Gonzales agreed to testify as a state’s witness in exchange for a juvenile sentence. Salazar pointed to multiple pieces of Gonzales’ version of events that he said don’t add up.

“Nicholas Gonzales’ story is so bad you may believe that he’s making the whole thing up,” he said. “You may believe that he’s lying and he’s innocent, too, he just wants to get out.”

“How many lies and inconsistencies are you willing to stomach from the state’s witnesses just because you’re going to be outraged about what happened to Jaydon Chavez-Silver?” Salazar asked.

Salazar focused on the convoluted and problematic police investigation of the case, which resulted in charges against two men that were dismissed before Madrid was charged. And he suggested that allegations against Madrid were also the result of a faulty investigation. While prosecutors argued that two other witnesses were in the car on the night of the drive-by and would corroborate Gonzales’ story, Salazar said that their stories had changed.

“At some point you get to decide if it means that they came clean or finally decided that they didn’t want to go to jail either so they’re going to say exactly what the police want them to,” he said.

Prosecutor Penny Gilbert was upfront about the complicated history of the case and she acknowledged the earlier dismissed charges. She said the lead investigator in the case would testify about the “twists and turns” it took. When police realized witness statements they received were unreliable, Gilbert said, the earlier cases were dismissed, detectives regrouped and found the missing pieces.

Gilbert argued that a third defendant in the case, Dominic Conyers, had been beaten badly in a fight a month before at a home on Nakomis. On June 26, 2015, he, Gonzales and Madrid, with two more people, drove to the home. Gonzales and Madrid, armed with two guns and a plan for retribution, opened fire, hitting Chavez-Silver in the neck.

Testimony in the case is set to begin today after jury selection in the high-profile case took all day Monday and stretched through much of Tuesday. The trial before 2nd Judicial District Judge Jacqueline Flores is expected to last five to seven days.