Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Bashir convicted of first degree murder

Darian Bashir and his attorney Robert Aragon react on Tuesday when the judge reads the jury’s verdict. Bashir was convicted of the first degree murder in the 2019 shooting of University of New Mexico baseball player Jackson Weller. “Justice has been done,” said Lisa Praeger Weller, Jackson Weller’s mother. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / )Assistant District Attorney John Duran hugs Patrick Weller after a jury found Darian Bashir guilty of first degree murder in the 2019 shooting of Weller’s son Jackson Weller. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / )

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The jury found Darian Bashir guilty on Tuesday of the first degree murder in the 2019 shooting of a University of New Mexico baseball player.

It took the 2nd District Jury only half a day to reach their guilty verdict on May 4, 2019, in the murder of 23-year-old Jackson Weller outside a Nob Hill nightclub. The jury began deliberating just before noon on Tuesday and came to a verdict around 4 p.m.

The jury also found Bashir, 25, guilty of tampering with evidence of hiding a license plate, which was part of the evidence linking him to the murder.

Members of Weller’s family cried and hugged after Judge Cindy Leos read the verdict.

“Justice has been served,” said Lisa Praeger Weller, Jackson Weller’s mother, outside the courtroom. Losing her son is still difficult for the Dallas family, she said.

“Losing a loved one is never easy, especially like this,” she said.

Bashir himself, who was wearing a mask, showed little emotion when an officer handcuffed him as the judge read the verdict. Several members of Bashir’s family wept softly and quickly left the courtroom.

The first degree murder charge has a mandatory minimum 30 year sentence before Bashir is eligible for parole, prosecutors said. Bashir faces another three years for manipulating evidence. A verdict is likely to be announced in January.

Jurors were asked to choose between two conflicting reports submitted by prosecutors and defense lawyers.

When testifying in his own defense on Monday, Bashir admitted firing the shot that killed Weller.

Bashir has passed a “calculated judgment” to kill Weller in revenge for an earlier fight between Weller and a close friend of Bashir, prosecutors told the jury in closing arguments on Tuesday.

But Bashir’s attorney countered that Weller and a second UNM athlete intimidated Bashir by following him closely for 10 paces and making abusive comments in the moments before Bashir turned and fired a single bullet into Weller’s chest.

Bashir was “very angry, scared” before turning around and shooting Weller, his attorney Robert Aragon told the jury in closing arguments.

“This whole encounter only lasted a few seconds,” said Aragon. “It was rash and impulsive,” he said, but there is no evidence that the shooting was planned.

Aragon asked the jury to find Bashir guilty of lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter based on the theory that Bashir was “provoked” by the athletes’ actions in the moments before the shooting.

Weller’s murder shocked the community and was one of the factors that led Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to send 50 state police officers to Albuquerque for several weeks to help contain the violence.

Bashir’s case has also fueled debate over changes in the state’s judicial system.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and 2nd District Attorney Raúl Torrez argued at the time that Bashir should have been jailed on previous charges.

Torrez released a statement Tuesday applauding prosecutors and the jury’s quick verdict. He also criticized the defense strategy.

“I also share the outrage of the Weller family over the baseless allegations Bashir’s defense team has made regarding alleged statements by Jackson on the night of his murder,” Torrez said in a written statement.

Defense lawyers alleged that the athletes used racially and emotionally charged language while following Bashir, which angered and provoked him.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina also issued a statement Tuesday celebrating Bashir’s conviction, praising the hard work of the police and prosecutors.

“This guilty verdict is welcome news to a community shaken by this pointless crime in Nob Hill,” Medina said in the statement. “Our murder detectives worked hard under incredible pressure to solve this crime.”

Much of the discussion on Tuesday depended on how Bashir parked his silver Mercedes-Benz when he arrived at the crime scene near Richmond and Central NE.

Prosecutors alleged that Bashir parked his car near an alley and kept the engine running in an attempt to kill Weller.

“That speaks to the defendant’s state of mind,” Assistant District Attorney John Duran told the jury. Bashir was also armed with a .38 caliber revolver, he said.

Bashir parked his car near Last Call, a walk-in burrito stand where witnesses testified just minutes before Weller had an argument with Bashir’s close friend D’Angelo McNeal.

“Bashir was not involved in the fight,” said Duran. “Bashir didn’t know who was in the fight and he wanted to make sure he was getting the right person.”

Duran recalled the testimony of UNM baseball player Nico Garza, who was by his side last week when he was shot.

Garza testified Tuesday that the gunman approached them in Richmond NE and asked, “Hey, were you the guys who fought those guys over there?”

When Weller replied in the affirmative, Bashir calmly told them to follow him, Garza testified.

Bashir “did his own twisted investigation,” Duran told jurors.

He also played a security video of the shooting to the jury, which he believed confirmed the course of events. The video was shown to the jury dozens of times throughout the trial.

Duran told the jury that Bashir gestured with his left hand while he pulled the pistol from his back pocket with his right.

“It’s like a magic trick,” said Duran. “It’s a sleight of hand. That left hand is the distraction. The right hand is the intention. “

As the athletes followed, Bashir quickly turned and fired one round, hitting Weller in the chest. Weller was later taken to a hospital where he died.

Defense attorney Aragon argued that Bashir’s choice of parking space did not show his intention to commit murder. The narrow alley is a poor escape route as it could easily have been blocked by an oncoming car, he said.

In his testimony on Monday, Bashir told the jury that the two athletes contacted him by “talking smack” in his direction. After Bashir approached, the two athletes began to follow Bashir closely, making him angry and fearful.

Court records show that Bashir had several previous encounters with law enforcement officers related to gun crimes.

In November 2017, Bashir reportedly shot a young man in the stomach in downtown Albuquerque. The man was seriously injured but survived. A prosecutor’s spokesman later admitted that mistakes were made and deadlines were missed in the case, leading to his release in January 2019.

Three weeks later, Bashir was accused of firing an assault rifle from another vehicle. The prosecutor’s office requested that Bashir be detained pending trial, but a judge denied the request and released Bashir just weeks before Weller’s murder.

Bashir pleaded guilty in December 2019 of shooting at or out of a motor vehicle, in this case contributing to the crime of a minor. A plea agreement provides for a prison sentence of up to three years. A verdict is not scheduled.

Assistant District Attorney John Duran, left, hugs Lisa Praeger Weller, mother of Jackson Weller, and District Attorney Shonetta Estrada, right, hugs Patrick Weller, Jackson Weller’s father, after Darian Bashir was found guilty of the first degree murder of Jackson Weller’s death. The focus is on Madison Weller, Jackson Weller’s sister. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / )

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