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DA seeks relief over polygraph decision

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A judge’s decision to permit inconclusive polygraph results in a double homicide trial led the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office to file two alternate requests for relief Monday with the New Mexico Supreme Court.

One asks the high court to tell 2nd District Judge Kenneth Martinez he was wrong on the law at a hearing last week in the homicide case against Ronald Santiago.

Martinez decided that a September 2012 polygraph of Renee Ohlemacher, whose parents John and Bernadette were murdered in their Paradise Hills home on Aug. 2, 2005, could be admitted into evidence and used by the defense to impeach her expected testimony.

The prosecution sought to exclude the evidence, saying that because the polygrapher had no opinion on whether the witness was being truthful or deceptive, it was also irrelevant. State rules governing trials say only relevant evidence can be admitted.

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Deputy District Attorney Jason Yamato told the judge at the hearing that admitting the polygraph would only serve to confuse jurors, who may incorrectly infer that she was deceptive, and thus less credible.

The office’s alternative request, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg told reporters Tuesday, is a pretrial appeal, a proceeding that could take far longer to resolve than the requested writ.

“The court made a ruling we think is inappropriate,” she said, adding that it hampers the state’s ability to get a fair trial and should be resolved before trial because the state does not get a second chance.

Despite defense attorney Joseph Riggs’s characterization of Renee Ohlemacher as the prosecution’s “star witness,” Brandenburg said that Ohlemacher is only one of many witnesses.

“This is the kind of case where every witness is important,” she said.

Santiago was charged in August 2006, a year after the Ohlemacher deaths, with two counts of first degree murder, one count of aggravated burglary, five counts of forgery and two counts of tampering with evidence.

Santiago was a loan processor with Countrywide Home Loans and handled a refinance for the couple, which eventually led law enforcement to focus on him as the alleged killer. Renee Ohlemacher reported the murders to police, telling them she heard someone come up the stairs, heard voices and then gunshots and found her parents shot to death.

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