The trial of Damian Herrera, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and a number of other felonies, will move to Santa Fe County.
Attorney Michael Rosenfield requested the change of venue, arguing at a hearing Monday before Judge Jason Lidyard that the local attention to the case would prevent his client from getting a fair trial in Rio Arriba County.
Herrera, who turns 23 this month, is charged with killing his stepfather, 55-year-old Max Trujillo Sr., his mother, 49-year-old Maria “Brenda” Rosita Gallegos, and his brother, 20-year-old Brendon Herrera, following an argument at the family home in the small community of La Madera in June 2017.
Authorities have also charged him with killing two strangers, 61-year-old Michael Kyte in Abiquiu and 59-year-old Manuel Serrano in Tres Piedras. Herrera has been charged separately with first-degree murder in the killing in Tres Piedras in Taos County.
Rosenfield said at the hearing that the “emotionality” in Rio Arriba County would affect the jury pool.
“All we want are twelve jurors and four alternates who are not predisposed to believe that he is guilty of any crime before they get sworn in as jurors,” Rosenfield told the judge. “That’s all we’re trying to do. We truly believe that in interest of justice, that he would be more likely to get a fair trial in Santa Fe County than in Rio Arriba County.”
The judge sided with Rosenfield despite opposition from prosecutors. Herrera did not attend the hearing.