Albuquerque-Metro

New Mexico Supreme Court hears arguments in convicted cop killer case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The man serving life in prison for killing a Rio Rancho police officer wants his conviction thrown out. 

Andrew Romero claims his trial wasn't fair, and Tuesday he appealed his conviction to the state's highest court. 

In his appeal, Romero lists a dozen reasons why he didn't receive a fair trial -- one of them being all the media coverage. 

He argues because of that, his trial should have been held somewhere outside of the Albuquerque metro-area to avoid a "tainted" jury. 

"What TV stations do you think they watch in Rio Arriba County or Taos? What newspapers do you think they read in Rio Arriba County or Taos?" New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Gary Clingman asked. 

"I think there will be some jurors who have seen the Albuquerque news, absolutely. But not at the levels there are in Valencia," defense attorney Kimberly Cook said. 

Andrew Romero was convicted in 2016 of killing Officer Gregg Nigel Benner and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, plus 60 years. 

Tuesday in front of the Supreme Court, his attorney also argued that during trial there were problems with eyewitness statements, and that the judge didn't suppress evidence he should have, including some of Romero's criminal past. 

She noted Romero has been labeled a career criminal and a cop killer, saying those labels tainted a lot of the jury pools around the metro. 

Yet, the state defended its actions and District Court Judge George Eichwald's decision, saying the state just had a "strong case." 

The prosecutor also listed everything the court did to give Romero a fair trial. 

"He noted that he suppressed the defendants' custodial statements to the officers. He noted that he also suppressed another statement the defendant allegedly made in jail about killing other officers, and he noted that the defendant received 'Cadillac defense' with two highly experienced defense attorneys,'" prosecutor Anne Kelly said. 

The Supreme Court did not issue a decision Tuesday, saying it could take months. 

On top of the murder conviction, Romero was also convicted of a string of armed robberies leading up to Officer Benner's death in 2015, which added 21 years to his life sentence. 

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