Jan 262011

By Linda Kor —

A Winslow man convicted in Navajo County Superior Court of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder had that ruling overturned by Division 1 of the Arizona Court of Appeals on Dec. 16, 2010.

Michael Ray Fuqua, 30, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Tom Wing in January 2008 to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years for conspiring with a cellmate to murder his former girlfriend, whom he had discovered was a confidential informant for law enforcement and had provided them with information that led to his arrest on drug related charges.

A memorandum provided by the Court of Appeals states that prior to being charged with conspiracy, Fuqua claimed to have told two other prisoners that he and his cellmate had made up a murder conspiracy as a ploy that would allow his cellmate to obtain an early release for providing the information to law enforcement. Once free his cellmate would bond Fuqua out of jail, but they never intended to go through with the murder plot. The Court of Appeals ruled that the sentence be reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court refused to admit that evidence.

In an unrelated decision, Judge Wing determined that Fuqua will receive a new trial pertaining to the drug charges for which he was serving a total of 19.75 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Wing stated in his Jan. 18 ruling that after reviewing evidence admitted at Fuqua’s trial, he found that Fuqua’s court appointed attorney, Carolyn Holliday, who now serves as a judge in Navajo County Superior Court, provided inadequate counsel.

Wing stated that Holliday challenged the state’s evidence by “poking holes” in it without pursuing evidence that may have supported Fuqua’s testimony. In his findings he determined that there was a reasonable probability that the result of Fuqua’s jury trial would have been different if it weren’t for his ineffective counsel.

As a result, Fuqua will be retried on the 21 original charges, including possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of dangerous drugs for sale, transportation of dangerous drugs for sale, two counts of sale of dangerous drugs, three counts of use of a building for the sale or manufacturing of dangerous drugs, three counts of use of wire communication or electronic communication in a drug-related transaction, and eight counts of misconduct involving weapons.

Fuqua was transferred from the Arizona Department of Corrections to the Navajo County Jail as he awaits his new trials, which have yet to be scheduled. He will be represented by attorney Criss Candelaria, with Judge John Lamb presiding.