Burleson defense seeking ways to disqualify DA

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

The defense attorney for James Burleson, a mixed-martial arts promoter who faces charges in connection with the 2007 death of a Tucumcari man, said he will file motions to disqualify the Quay County District Attorney’s office and to seek depositions in the case.

Burleson’s defense attorney, Lee Deschamps of Socorro, received 90 days to file the motions in a pre-trial conference with the Quay County prosecutor’s office via a telephone conference on Monday in District Court in Tucumcari.

Ninth Judicial District Judge David Reeb presided over the proceedings.

Deschamps said the DA’s office should be disqualified because, “In this case, the law enforcement did not feel a crime had been committed. Then three months later, the District Attorney’s office filed the complaint themselves as the complainant. There was a conflict of interest, in my opinion, for them to represent themselves and not the state of New Mexico.”

In preliminary trial hearings last year, the lead detective for the New Mexico State Police said each of the elements for self-defense was present at the time Jason Pacheco was shot and killed, Deschamps said.

“The district attorney’s office has an ethical responsibility not to prosecute, as a crime, conduct that is not criminal but is, in fact, justified under the law,” Deschamps said.

Deschamps also said there are some inconsistencies in statements by some of the witnesses who testified in a preliminary hearing last year.
“Some of the eyewitnesses refused to show up for the preliminary trial and we would like to have their testimonies on record,” Deschamps said.

Prosecutors vowed to fight any motions in which the defense could hold depositions.

Quay County Deputy District Attorney Len Walker also said, “There are no grounds that we know of that would disqualify this office from prosecuting this case.”

Burleson, who is from Socorro, was in Tucumcari a little more than a year ago to promote a mixed-martial arts fight event at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Burleson is charged in the shooting death of Pacheco on Feb. 1, 2007, on Main Street in Tucumcari. Burleson and Pacheco got into an altercation on their way to a “weigh-in” at a downtown gym in preparation for the fight, according to court records.

Prosecutors have advanced two theories regarding Burleson’s involvement in Pacheco’s death. Evidence and court proceedings will determine which theory — if applicable — might lead to a conviction, records show.

The first is that the death of Pacheco was murder in the second degree and that Burleson did unlawfully kill Pacheco without justification or excuse. If convicted of this charge, Burleson could face 19 years in jail.

The second is that Burleson unlawfully killed Pacheco without malice “which was committed upon a sudden quarrel.” If convicted of this charge, Burleson’s maximum sentence could be 15 years.

Late last year, Deschamps and the Quay County DA’s office sought to have the trial moved from Tucumcari because of the notoriety of the case and the expected difficulty in finding individuals to serve on the jury. In December, Reeb issued the order that only the trial be moved to De Baca County; other proceedings, such as Monday’s pre-trial conference, would remain in Quay County District Court.