Judge sets trial date for Levi Chavez

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A trial date has been set for ex-Albuquerque police officer Levi Chavez, who is accused of killing his wife, Tera, with his department-issued weapon at the couple's home in 2007.

District Court Judge John Pope scheduled a July 9 trial date Monday after both prosecutors and the defense said they have had to sift through more than 9,000 pages of discovery in preparation for the case. Those pages include documents from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim's family.

Chavez's defense attorney David C. Serna wrote in a motion filed in district court that reports and statements are "thrown together in a hodgepodge" rather than in chronological order.

He said the prosecution failed to itemize all of the documents in the correct order.

"The defense is at a standstill, essentially, until we can get the discovery in some way that it makes sense to us or anyone," Serna said in court.

Serna said that portions of statements are mixed in with other documents rather than in a proper order. He said some documents aren't properly stamped and that both sides may have more documents to sort through before the case gets to trial.

"The state has hinted at many theories of prosecution," Serna said. "The state has hinted that my client was in collusion with other Albuquerque police officers. That would generate more discovery."

Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay agreed that all of the documents need to be re-stamped and re-scanned in a timely manner by the district attorney's office in Belen. He said the process would ensure everyone has all the documents in the case.

McKay said he didn't necessarily agree with the pages being in order.

"(My job) is to make sure that (the defense) has all pages," McKay said.

Both attorneys estimate the discovery process will take at least six months before the case can go to trial.

In October 2007, Levi Chavez called 911 and told dispatchers that his wife, Tera, had committed suicide. It was subsequently determined that Chavez's service weapon had been discharged in her mouth.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator originally ruled the death a suicide, but after a request from the Valencia County Sheriff's Office, the ruling was changed to undetermined.

McKay has said Chavez killed his wife to keep her from being a witness in the case involving the couple's alleged stolen truck a month before Tera Chavez died.

Chavez reported the couple's truck stolen in September 2007, and Tera told friends he had stolen the truck and made it look like a theft, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by her parents.

Pope commended both sides for working well together and said the July deadline should be enough time to get any issues sorted out.

He set a hearing date of April 30 so both sides will have a couple of months to "straighten out any discovery issues."

"I am a firm believer that if you don't have some kind of deadline, then things tend to stretch out," Pope said.

A pre-trial conference is set for Friday, May 4.


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