Mar 14, 2008
HUGO, Colo. (AP) - A prison slaying was the result of a botched drug deal, and the victim was a suspected informant, a prosecutor declared Thursday in the murder trial of inmate David Bueno.
Jeffrey Heird was beaten and stabbed 29 times in 2004 after a gang at the Limon Correctional Facility labeled him a "snitch," Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan May said in his opening statement in Bueno's first-degree murder trial.
If convicted, Bueno could face the death penalty.
One of Bueno's best friends -- and a fellow gang member -- was disciplined after he was caught trying to smuggle drugs into the prison in January 2004, May said.
Bueno believed Heird told authorities about the drugs, May added.
"And the penalty in his mind for that was torture and death," May said.
Defense attorney Derek Samuelson told jurors that a white supremacist gang Heird was involved in was responsible for Heird's slaying because he didn't warn gang members they were being investigated for smuggling drugs.
Much of the prosecution's case, Samuelson argued, "comes from the self-serving tales of convicts doing time for crimes as serious as murder." He told jurors they would get "a rare glimpse of a dark, dangerous and frequently brutal world that inmates live in."
Bueno is serving a 24-year sentence for burglary. Another Limon inmate, Alejandro Perez, is charged in the killing and could face the death penalty. He will be tried later. A third inmate, Michael Ramirez, was also charged in the case, but is not facing the death penalty. May described him as the lookout during the homicide.
Heird had been convicted in Utah for the 1991 killing of a gas station attendant he kidnapped in Cortez, Colo. Perez is serving 32 years for second-degree murder.
Both sides described a prison where an inmates' code of silence is revered, gang loyalties are forged along racial lines, and a relationship with a female guard may have made Heird privy to the information that led to his death.
May said Bueno chose to kill Heird during a dinner in March 2004 when most inmates were outside their cells.
An inmate who returned from dinner early told authorities he saw Bueno walk into Heird's cell, May said.
"He could hear some banging -- some commotion," May said. "Pretty soon he heard screaming."
Investigators concluded the banging was someone smashing Heird's head on the cement floor, May said, adding that most of Heird's stab wounds were inflicted with something like an ice pick.
Samuelson said Heird learned of the impending drug bust from a female guard.
"He became attracted to her and by all accounts she let him get too close," Samuelson said. "He became aware of this information and he apparently didn't share it. That turned out to be a fatal decision."