Crime

Prosecution, defense spar over pre-trial publicity in Las Cruces manslaughter case

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - 41-year-old Corban Serna, who allegedly shot and killed another man over the weekend, appeared in court Thursday on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, with a judge deciding he will remain behind bars until his next court hearing.

Serna’s defense attorney and the prosecutor faced off during the court hearing, with the prosecution asking the judge to reprimand the defense for unethical conduct.

At issue was a statement to the media where the defense maintained the shooting was a case of self-defense and not worthy of prosecution.

 What that is in essence doing is tainting any future jury pool. It’s putting the minds of the public on not all the facts, only the facts most beneficial to the defendant, said District Attorney Mark D'antonio.

But the defense lawyer argued police and prosecutors are allowed to tell their version of events to the public, and he should be able to do the same.

This is critical and it’s a weapon we’re going to use. We've used it before in other cases, and we’re going to use it in this case.  I’m going to act ethically, I’m going to act within my professional responsibility and I’m going to zealously represent my client, said defense attorney C.J. McElhinney.

The judge rejected the prosecution’s request to sanction the defense, but did ask both sides to keep their actions professional and ethical.

Afterwards, the district attorney defended his decision to file charges in the case despite Serna’s claim of self-defense.

“Every case that we take is vetted carefully by my attorneys who I have great trust in and, in particular, cases I get involved in and make the decision,” D'antonio explained.

He said despite the challenges posed, this prosecution would be treated the same as all the others his office handles — but he remained concerned about the potential of a contaminated jury pool.


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