Attorneys traded opening statements this week in the first-degree murder trial of a man accused of fatally shooting a stranger in 2019 as the two were driving on Interstate 40 near the Big I.
Donald Duquette fired gunshots in self defense after the other driver repeatedly tried to ram his Ford Ranger into Duquette’s vehicle, defense attorney Raymond Maestas told jurors Tuesday.
Duquette, 54, faces a charge of first-degree murder and shooting at or from a motor vehicle in the shooting death of Jose Ruben Diaz, 45, who was found slumped over the wheel of his work truck on the southbound off-ramp at Interstate 25.
“Jose Diaz drove towards Mr. Duquette’s truck aggressively and erratically multiple times,” Maestas told jurors. “Mr. Duquette feared Mr. Diaz and his truck.”
The confrontation continued for less than 60 seconds as the two men drove east on I-40 from 12th Street and the I-25 exit at speeds up to 90 mph, Maestas said.
“When (Duquette) faced a truck being used as a weapon, he had a right to defend himself,” Maestas told jurors.
Diaz had been gambling at Route 66 Casino that night and had consumed cocaine and alcohol, Maestas said. Duquette had used methamphetamine “from a couple of days earlier,” he said.
Deputy District Attorney Lawrence Hansen said in opening statements that Diaz was unarmed at the time he was shot once in the head. No gun or spent cartridges were found in Diaz’s truck, he said.
When Duquette’s vehicle was searched, police found five spent bullet cartridges and a single bullet lodged in the passenger door, just below the passenger window, he said.
All the spent cartridges — the bullet lodged in the passenger door, and a single bullet found in Diaz’s brain — were fired from the same weapon.
Two firearms were found in Duquette’s vehicle, neither of which were the weapon used in Diaz’s killing, Hansen said.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, Duquette showed up at a New Mexico State Police headquarters in tears about 18 hours after Diaz’s body was found.
Duquette allegedly told officers he shot Diaz apparently during a drug-fueled delusion, believing Diaz was going to kidnap his friend and sell her for heroin, the complaint said.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday.