the state's theory on Tera's death date to some time around 1 a.m. on Oct. 21,
2007, a Sunday.
From the beginning, Levi Chavez and Serna have insisted that Tera Chavez committed suicide at the peak of her despondency, which had been driven largely by her husband's many extramarital affairs.
All but two of the jurors declined to comment after their verdict was read. Those two said there was not enough evidence to prove the prosecution's case.
'Distrust of media'
Serna had some choice words for reporters in the courthouse parking lot, saying his client had a "healthy distrust of the media," who he said had "regurgitated" false allegations about Levi Chavez for years.
Levi Chavez didn't answer when asked whether he will try to get his job back at APD.
Serna, asked the same question, said: "I doubt it."
Levi Chavez was fired from APD 10 days after his indictment. At the time, Police Chief Ray Schultz said Levi Chavez didn't show up for an Internal Affairs interview, which was grounds for termination.
Serna said his client was "confident" throughout the trial and during the day and a half jurors were deliberating.
He also said Chavez had planned to testify "from Day One."
"He told me when he hired me that he planned on testifying on his own behalf," Serna said.
Growing visibly angry, the well-known defense attorney directed his ire at 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez and his staff for trying to make a case out of a "made-up pile of lies" in the first place.
Martinez "lacked the courage to declare that there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring these charges," Serna said. "He has put my client and his family through years and years of misery that never should've been visited upon them."
He accused Martinez of "allowing his political future" to dictate his decision to prosecute Levi Chavez.
Taken aback by verdict
McKay and his co-counsel in the case, Assistant District Attorney Anne Keener, refused to answer several questions from reporters as they left the courthouse Tuesday. Keener directed questions to Martinez.
Reached by telephone later Tuesday, Martinez, who made only one brief appearance in the courtroom during the entire trial, said he was "taken aback" by the jury's verdict.
"I thought we were going to get a guilty verdict," he said, adding that he was satisfied with McKay's and Keener's work on the case. "Twelve people heard evidence -- they heard every piece of evidence -- and came back with not guilty. We accept it ... And it reinforces the American system of justice."
Martinez said some of the evidence that was barred from the case may have hurt the state's case. In particular, he pointed to Eichwald's severe limiting of testimony on prosecutors' key theory of Levi Chavez's motive to kill Tera: to keep her from testifying against him and his "cop buddies" in an insurance fraud scheme involving Levi Chavez's truck.
"It would've reinforced our theory of the case," Martinez said of the testimony and evidence related to the truck that was kept out of the trial.
Addressing Serna's claims of a politically motivated prosecution, Martinez said: "If we didn't have any evidence, we wouldn't have gone to trial."
Defense targeted detective
Serna's primary target during the trial was Aaron Jones, who investigated Tera's death for the Valencia County Sheriff's Department.
Serna referred to Jones as a "dirty, dishonest cop" and tried to convince the jury that his investigation was shoddy, incomplete and vindictive.
Jones was in the courtroom to hear the verdict read on Tuesday.
In the parking lot afterward, he took several moments to collect himself before answering reporters' questions.
"This is just an unbelievably sad day," Jones said. "The jury had their work cut out for them. Unfortunately, they didn't get to hear everything; there was a lot missing, and there were a lot of rulings (pretrial) that didn't go the prosecution's way."
Of his investigation, he said: "I absolutely stand by it, and I'll never make any apologies for what I did in this case," which he described as "unconventional" because the suspect was a police officer.
Jones said the last five-plus years have been difficult for everyone involved -- most of all the Cordova family.
"They're the strongest people I've ever met in my life," he said. "They're good people, and they're the true victims of the bad things that happen in our world."
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