Larry Ray Porter
Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Kenneth Dabney’s loved ones will not remain silent while the man who killed the 19-year-old Creede resident tries to vacate his conviction and life sentence.
Family members and others filled the 12th Judicial District courtroom in Alamosa on Friday to bear witness, as attorneys updated District Judge Michael Gonzales on the status of Larry Ray Porter’s latest motions.
However, neither the defense nor the prosecution had much to report. As a result, Judge Gonzales continued the status conference to Aug. 23 in order to give both sides more time to review the case.
Almost 26 years have passed since jurors convicted the former Houston, Texas man of first-degree murder after deliberation, felony murder, first-degree kidnapping, extortion and a “crime of violence.”
A judge subsequently sentenced him to life in prison, and a state appeals court upheld his conviction.
However, Porter is now seeking to vacate the jury’s verdict on the grounds that he received ineffective legal assistance at the trial and appellate court levels.
In his original motion for post-conviction relief, the 50-year-old Limon Correctional Facility inmate repeatedly alleges that he didn’t receive a fair trial, due to errors and omissions on the part of his former counsel.
Among other things, Porter claims that his trial attorney violated his constitutional rights by failing to consider the possibility that he may have been suffering from altitude sickness when he was “in contact with” Dabney.
The phrase “in contact with” doesn’t begin to describe the horrors behind Dabney’s death.
An autopsy report found that the young man bled to death after his jugular vein was slashed; there were three stab wounds to his upper torso, including one that lacerated his liver.
Porter now maintains that he was confused and suffering from some kind of hallucination during the June 1986 incident, and he claims he told his attorney as much.
Yet he alleges the attorney never investigated his claims, which he now says could have been caused by the sudden elevation gain he made during a trip between low-lying Houston and the Creede area. Nor did the attorney hire a psychiatrist or other expert who could have been used to support a mental impairment defense, he says.
Instead, his attorney threatened to withdraw as counsel if his client was determined to “lie under oath,” Porter claims. As a result, he never took to the witness stand, and he now asserts that he was deprived of his right to testify during his October 1987 trial.
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins, who was appointed to represent Porter, told Judge Gonzales on Friday that she has since removed several issues her client initially raised. She has also condensed several other matters, while raising new issues of her own, she said.
But she wasn’t quite ready to submit her paperwork to the court on Friday.
Since the original court proceedings date back to the 1980s, Hopkins said she’s had to research the laws that were in place at that time. That work turned out to be somewhat difficult, she said.
Once the defense has filed its legal brief, the district attorney’s office will need time to review it. The same holds true for any subsequent paperwork that the prosecution may file.
Judge Gonzales ultimately determined that the Aug. 23 date should give both sides ample time to get caught up for a full-day review in court.