ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A former city employee charged a year ago with murdering the son of a state representative could soon be released from jail.
A mix-up has delayed key evidence in the case, and now his attorney is fighting for his release.
In two days, it will be exactly a year that Jesse Chavez has been behind bars.
In that time, the court has been waiting on a request for DNA testing, a request that has been sitting unchecked on the desk of a woman who no longer even works at the DNA lab.
In cuffs and bright orange, Chavez, 32, appeared in court on Wednesday, hoping for his release.
Deputies arrested him on Oct. 18, 2012 for the murder of Ralph Chavez, 45.
The two men are not related. Ralph was the son of State Rep. Ernest Chavez, D-Albuquerque..
Jesse Chavez’s attorney said the state has no evidence linking him to the crime while the state waits for DNA testing.
“We have a huge number of objects that could potentially yield DNA, and what the state has done is requested those objects be tested,” said the prosecutor, Kevin Holmes.
They made that request in June.
Now, four months later, testing at the Albuquerque Police Department Crime Lab hasn't even started.
A state filing with the court says the lab analyst assigned to it doesn't work at the lab anymore, and the job wasn't reassigned to anyone else.
A judge Wednesday called the state negligent.
“I understand that personnel changes, but at the same time I have to consider that Mr. Chavez has been in custody accused of this with absolutely no evidence holding him in custody,” said District Court Judge Christina Argyres.
Holmes said he is looking at taking the evidence to a state lab after estimating testing could take another five months at the APD lab.
“We're absolutely no closer to a resolution than we were in June or May or April when I was filing these motions,” said defense attorney Cynthia Leos.
But considering the serious charges, the judge wasn't ready to make a decision on Chavez's release in the 10 minutes allotted for Wednesday's hearing.
“It is not a decision to be made lightly or within ten minutes,” Argyres said. “Let's have a separate hearing on Nov. 6, and we can discuss all those factors.”
A source at the crime lab says they are working to resolve this issue on their end and that the DNA testing will be taken care of as soon as possible.
To complicate things further, Jesse Chavez was transferred to a jail in Polk County, Texas, about a month ago because of overcrowding at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center.
Since Wednesday’s hearing, he has been moved back to MDC while awaiting trial to avoid more delays in the case.
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