Prosecutors Wednesday wrapped up their portion of the penalty phase trial for Floyd Eugene Maestas, 52, who was convicted last week by a 12-member jury of killing Donna Lou Bott, 72, in 2004.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, while the defense team wants the same jury to return a penalty verdict of life in prison without parole.
The defense worked Wednesday to present a fuller picture of Maestas, which includes details from a childhood marked by poverty and violence, physical and sexual abuse, and a low IQ that hampered him throughout school. Defense attorney David Mack has argued previously that the deprivations in Maestas' life rendered him less able to reason and behave correctly than people with normal upbringings and more advantages.
Chris Wiggins, the retired police chief of Durango, Colo., where Maestas grew up, took the stand Wednesday and testified that the city years ago "was not very progressive" and there was profound discrimination against Hispanics and Native Americans in jobs and housing. Maestas is Hispanic and Native American.
Wiggins said Hispanics generally lived in what was termed "Mexican flats," an area of tiny lots that tenants could rent and build on, but if they were evicted, they lost their homes. Most houses were adobe structures with no running water, electricity, indoor plumbing or heating.
Some minorities moved into frame houses that had utilities, but they often had to pack large numbers of relatives into cramped quarters because one family alone could not afford the rent.
Wiggins recalled how, as a patrol officer, he responded to a call at the Maestas home where he found Maestas' sister, Charlotte, then 14, bleeding profusely as she died from a stab wound inflicted by a boyfriend.
However, under questioning from prosecutor Cara Tangaro, Wiggins said the majority of the people who lived in these poverty-stricken areas lived honest and law-abiding lives.
Earlier, Emily Neaman, the granddaughter of Donna Bott, tearfully described how she cleaned up her grandmother's house after the murder and found a beloved photograph spattered with blood.Phyllis Hancey, Bott's niece, wept and struggled to speak as she recounted how the death of her aunt ended an era for the entire family because it was the last tie to that generation. "My mother had passed away and (Bott) was the last one who was there."