By GLENN PUIT , May 29, 2002, Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Prior to her conviction on a first-degree murder charge, Kirstin Lobato turned down a deal that offered three years in prison for the killing and sexual mutilation of a homeless man.
Defense attorney Gloria Navarro said Tuesday that Lobato, who now faces at least 40 years in prison when she is sentenced July 2, refused to plead guilty because she knew she was innocent.
“She placed her belief in the justice system, and she ended up being convicted of a crime that she did not commit,” Navarro said.
On May 18, a Clark County jury convicted Lobato, 19, of first-degree murder and sexual penetration of a corpse in the slaying of Duran Bailey, who was bludgeoned and stabbed to death behind a West Flamingo Road trash bin last summer. His penis was severed after death.
Special Public Defender Philip Kohn and Navarro filed a motion Tuesday seeking a new trial for Lobato, saying a crucial witness in the Panaca woman’s trial is a proven liar.
Korinda Martin told jurors she and Lobato were at the Clark County Detention Center and Lobato confessed to her about killing Bailey.
“She was boasting about it,” Martin testified.
Martin, a former nurse serving time for robbing and coercing one of her patients, said Lobato had described Bailey as her drug connection.
Now, Lobato’s attorneys say they have proof from police that Martin perjured herself during the trial.
“She was the linchpin, the star witness, the most important witness,” Navarro said. “She is the only one who connects my client to the scene.”
Navarro said when Martin testified, Kohn grilled her about the possibility that Martin had fabricated letters sent to a judge on Martin’s behalf in her own criminal case.
“She denied it under oath, and she was very convincing,” Navarro said.
But the defense attorneys subsequently had the letters examined by Las Vegas police. Navarro said a handwriting analysis by police shows that Martin did fabricate the letters.
“Clearly, she would say anything to help herself; she would even commit perjury,” Navarro said.
Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney William Kephart has said Martin’s account of the Lobato confession was highly credible and was one part of a litany of facts showing Lobato is guilty.
During his closing argument in the trial, Kephart said Lobato met up with Bailey when Lobato was at the end of a three-day drug binge.
During the trial, authorities played for the jury a taped statement in which Lobato told police about stabbing at a man’s penis while fending off a sexual assault in Las Vegas. They also presented Martin’s testimony and a handful of witnesses who said Lobato made other incriminating statements about cutting off a man’s penis.
The defense contended those statements related to another incident and that Lobato never met Bailey.
Not mentioned in the defense’s motion for a new trial is the fact that during their deliberations, the jury in the case sent some seemingly curious notes to District Judge Valorie Vega.
The jurors “were scared of her (Lobato’s) family,” Navarro said, not elaborating about the contents of the notes.
Also not in the motion is the fact that the jury in the Lobato case chose to deliberate until nearly 2 a.m. on a Saturday before returning its verdict. Jurors were given that option by Vega, who also gave them a chance to complete their deliberations at a later date.
Navarro said it’s possible that those issues could be the subject of future appeals.
Also in their motion, Kohn and Navarro argue that Lobato deserves a new trial because of a decision to limit the testimony of a defense forensics expert who was going to say there was no physical evidence tying Lobato to the bloody crime scene.