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Man convicted in 1995 murder resentenced

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A man convicted of first-degree murder in a 26-year-old local homicide was sentenced to a 30-year prison term Thursday, after a recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision sent his case back to District Court for resentencing.

Judge James Hudson of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court sentenced Francisco Martinez Jr., 43, during a Thursday hearing, to 30 years incarceration followed by two years parole.

Hudson followed the recommendation of Emily Fry, deputy district attorney, in handing down the sentence. Beth Hightower, Martinez’s attorney, unsuccessfully lobbied the court for a 20-year sentence.

Martinez will also receive four years and 42 days of credit for time served, leaving 26 years remaining in his prison term.

In 2018 Martinez was sentenced to 40 years with 10 years suspended after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, willful and deliberate in the 1995 shooting death of Leobardo Loya at an illegal race track in Dexter, according to court documents.

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He then fled to Mexico but was arrested in El Paso in 2017, extradited back to New Mexico and subsequently tried and convicted.

Martinez, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was tried as a serious youthful offender.

In an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court, Martinez’s attorneys argued the 40-year sentence violated state sentencing guidelines.

Under New Mexico law, an individual tried as a serious youthful offender cannot receive a sentence that is greater than the basic sentence an adult offender would receive.

Martinez’s attorney argued and the court in its ruling agreed the 40-year sentence Martinez was initially given exceeded the 30-year maximum sentence he could receive under state law.

The court however rejected other portions of Martinez’s appeal in which it was argued the conviction should be overturned on other grounds, such as that he received ineffective legal counsel from a previous attorney at the time of the trial.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301 or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.