Jury deadlocked in murder trial of Puente
LOVINGTON — Fifth Judicial District Judge Gary Clingman declared a mistrial Thursday afternoon in the murder trial of Hobbsan Joshua Puente regarding the April 2016 shooting of Hobbsan Darrell Griffin. The mistrial came after more than eight hours of deliberation that started Wednesday and ended Thursday after jurors couldn’t reach a verdict.
Starting Monday, Puente, 27, stood trial in Lovington for first-degree murder in Griffin’s death on April 28, 2016. That day, Hobbs police officers responded to the 1000 block of East Gypsy Street and found Griffin, 35, suffering from a gunshot wound. He was transported to Lea Regional Medical Center and later pronounced dead. A day later, Hobbs Police Department announced it learned a verbal altercation had taken place between Griffin and Puente, then 25, and it had “escalated to gunshots being fired.”
Puente was originally charged with first-degree murder, but Clingman made a directed verdict that eliminated first-degree and the state proceeded on second-degree murder. It came following a directed verdict motion after the state presented its case, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Lisa Kuykendall of the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The lesser charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Jury deliberations started Wednesday afternoon and stretched into the evening, prompting a recess until Thursday morning. Cling-man announced around 2 p.m. Thursday that jurors were “unable to reach a verdict.” He questioned the jury foreperson if it was correct that the jury was “hopelessly deadlocked,” which was verified.
“Was the jury able to reach a unanimous verdict as to guilt or innocence on second-degree murder?” Clingman asked, which was denied.
He then polled the jury and after each juror confirmed, they were excused from the courtroom.
Puente’s public defenders, Craig Acorn from Albuquerque and Freeman Faust from Hobbs, flanked Puente in the courtroom and discussed the outcome of the trial afterwards.
“We’re always disappointed when the jury doesn’t reach a verdict, but we respect that,” Acorn said. “It’s difficult. We especially appreciate the fact that they wrestled with this, instead of coming to a quick decision. There’s a lot for them to think about and we’re glad that they did think about it. So, we’re glad to have another opportunity to present the case to a jury and we think that we’ll win an acquittal.”
Kuykendall also commented on the outcome Thursday.
“I actually feel bad for the jury because it’s got to be difficult for them to deliberate that long and not be able to come to a resolution,” she said. “But I can also see what they did get hung up on. What they were having difficult reaching a verdict, a unanimous decision about.”
Puente’s retrial on second-degree murder is tentatively scheduled for June 26. Puente is detained at the Lea County Detention Center in Lovington, as of Thursday.