Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Jurors on Tuesday found Esias Madrid guilty of first-degree murder – the first murder conviction in the high-profile drive-by shooting of 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, who was not the shooters’ intended target.
At trial, prosecutors said the 19-year-old fired from the back seat of a Nissan Maxima into the kitchen windows of a Northeast Heights home where Chavez-Silver, who had just finished his junior year at Manzano High, was partying with friends in June 2015.
Madrid is the last of three defendants convicted in the shooting. The other two pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Almost from its outset, the drawn-out homicide case was full of controversy and complications: recanted statements, dismissed cases, a political resignation, a dispatcher’s 911 hang up and allegations of police coercion.
Even Tuesday’s verdict was not without issues. Jurors apparently misinterpreted jury instructions and failed to consider three lesser charges Madrid faced, forcing District Judge Jacqueline Flores to declare a mistrial on those counts, which include conspiracy, shooting from a vehicle and shooting at a dwelling.
District Attorney Raúl Torres said his office has not made a decision as to whether it will retry Madrid on the mistried charges.
Madrid’s defense lawyer, Daniel Salazar, argued at trial that the state’s key witnesses were just trying to stay out of trouble by telling police what they wanted to hear. And asked for comment after the verdict was read, Salazar said he believed the jury convicted an innocent man.
“I respect the jury process,” he said, “although I don’t believe they reached the correct verdict in this case.”
But the verdict offered a long-awaited sense of justice to Chavez-Silver’s family and friends, who packed much of the courtroom throughout the trial.
“You don’t know whether you should smile or cry, because our son’s still not here,” Chavez-Silver’s father, Ronald Silver, said through tears. “And nothing will bring him back.”
Prosecutors said that Madrid, Nicholas Gonzales and Dominic Conyers planned to retaliate against a man who’d beaten Conyers unconscious a month before. The group drove to the man’s home on Nakomis NE and peeked through the windows to see if he was inside. After they returned to the car, Gonzales, then 16, and Madrid opened fire, prosecutors said. Chavez-Silver was fatally shot in the neck by a bullet not intended for him.
Gonzales accepted a plea deal that required him to testify for the state. In exchange, he was sentenced to one year in juvenile custody. It was only after Gonzales accepted the deal that charges were filed against Madrid.
Before that, prosecutors had filed and dismissed charges against two other men, Christopher Cruz and Donovan Maez. Maez’s mother, Stephanie Maez, was then a state representative who resigned in order to deal with her son’s charges. Those arrests are now the subject of a civil rights lawsuit alleging police misrepresented facts and coerced witnesses.
Early on, the case drew national attention after news broke that an emergency dispatcher hung up on a teenage girl attempting to render aid to Chavez-Silver. The dispatcher, who was a member of the Albuquerque Fire Department giving her instructions, hung up after the distraught teen swore during the 911 call. He later resigned.
At sentencing, set for Nov. 20, Madrid faces a mandatory 30-year life sentence. He is already serving a 16-year sentence in connection to another fatal shooting. At his sentencing in the Chavez-Silver case, the judge will decide whether he can serve both sentences at the same time or whether his life sentence must be served after completion of the 16-year sentence.