SANTA FE, New Mexico — Presumably his “warrior gene” makes him tough enough for prison.
The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld a murder conviction against a man who claimed his “warrior gene” made him predisposed to impulsive acts of violence.
Anthony Blas Yepez ad put forth the theory in a bid to get out of a 22-year sentence in the murder of his girlfriend’s 75-year-old step-grandfather, George Ortiz, in 2012.
In a unanimous decision, justices ruled that a lower court was justified in excluding evidence about the theory which lacks any scientific basis, in the original trial in which Yepez was convicted.
Defense attorneys had argued that Yepez was incapable of forming the intent to deliberately kill because of his genetic makeup., but expert testimony on the scientific claim was excluded in the pre-trial hearing phase.
Yepez was convicted in 2015 in the killing of Ortiz during a domestic dispute. Yepez is serving a 22-year sentence for second-degree murder with additional time for auto theft and tampering with evidence.
“We hold that evidence of mere genetic susceptibility to a given mental condition is not relevant on the issue of deliberate intent, at least in the absence of evidence that such susceptibility is so well understood and has such strong predictive value as to be clinically validated as an indicator of the mental condition,” said the opinion from former Justice Judith Nakamura, who heard oral arguments in the case before her recent retirement.
The high court rejected the defendant’s request for a new trial.
An appeals court previously ruled that the lower court abused its discretion in excluding scientific testimony, but that no harm was done because Yepez was acquitted of first-degree murder charges that require the state prove premeditation.
Yepez’s girlfriend, Jeannie Sandoval, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison for her role in the killing.