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A jury convicted Francis Fair of involuntary manslaughter on Friday in the 2019 death of a man found shot in the head in Fair’s bedroom.
Fair, 32, was initially charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 20, 2019, shooting death of 27-year-old Robert Herrera in a house in Southwest Albuquerque.
Second Judicial District Judge David Murphy tossed out the first-degree murder charge Thursday and ordered Fair tried on a charge of second-degree murder with a lesser included charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Murphy signed an order Friday for Fair’s release from the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, where he has remained in custody awaiting trial since October 2019, or nearly three years, said his attorney, Maxwell Pines.
The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 18 months in prison, with an additional year for a firearm enhancement. Fair’s sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Prosecutors said Friday that Fair’s case demonstrates the need for sentencing changes approved by lawmakers this year that enhance penalties in deaths involving the reckless use of a firearm.
“Despite his conviction, Mr. Fair may be released because the time he served while the case was pending may have exceeded the sentence available for involuntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement,” the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March signed into law a bill that enhances penalties for crimes involving a firearm.
“If the new statute adopted by the Legislature earlier this year would have applied to Mr. Fair, he would have been subject to a five-year firearm enhancement, rather than the one-year enhancement under the old law,” the statement said.
Fair’s attorneys told jurors this week that Herrera’s death was a “tragic accident” that occurred while Herrera was “playing around” with Fair’s handgun.
Prosecutors argued that Fair intentionally shot Herrera while the two men were drinking and smoking marijuana in the home of Fair’s mother in the 10800 block of Cenote SW, near 118th and Dennis Chavez.