A man serving three consecutive life sentences for murder asked a judge Monday to bring him back to New Mexico from a Florida prison where he says he’s been treated inhumanely.
John Hovey, 34, was sentenced to life in prison by a Valencia County jury in July, 2000, for killing a fellow inmate, Tim Lucero, at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas. Testimony at Hovey’s trial revealed Hovey and another inmate stabbed Lucero over 230 times while Lucero was sitting in his wheelchair in his prison cell.
Hovey, who, at the time of Lucero’s murder, was serving two life sentences for killing his parents in Albuquerque almost 20 years ago,, testified Monday he was not receiving proper psychological treatment in the Florida prison system.
District Court Judge John Pope didn’t make a decision Monday as to whether he’ll bring Hovey back to New Mexico. After hearing Hovey testify about Florida’s alleged prison conditions, Pope said he would take the matter under advisement for 10 days.
“Mr. Hovey isn’t my concern,” Pope said. “I have no sympathy for him. He does not have a right to say where he’s going, but I do want to make sure he’s not subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. I don’t want an inmate or guard killed because he (Hovey) gets depressed.”
Hovey, who didn’t testify at his own trial, took the stand and described the lack of medical and psychological treatment he’s received after his 2000 conviction. He testified he has been transported 11 different times to several New Mexico prisons as well as several prisons in Texas and Arizona and three prisons in Florida.
Hovey said he’s being housed in “close management” (solitary confinement) and only gets to see a doctor once a month for two or three minutes at a time. He said he isn’t offered psychological treatment in the Florida prison because he’s from New Mexico.
“All the time I was there, I was only treated twice,” Hovey said. He also testified that, because he is in “close management,” he’s not allowed his eye glasses, letters, books or attorney/client interaction and is kept in an unventilated cell without air conditioning. He also testified he’s not allowed an am/fm radio or television set and is only allowed one hour of recreation per week.
“I was never given a reason why I was sent to Florida,” Hovey said. “They (corrections officials) told me different lies. They first said New Mexico sent me to Florida for my own protection, and then they said I was a threat to New Mexico.
“This has messed me up quite a bit,” Hovey said. “I’m worse than I was before.”
Under cross examination, Hovey told Deputy District Attorney Ron Lopez that he was wrongfully convicted of killing his parents in 1984. He told Lopez he didn’t remember killing Lucero but said, after his trial in 2000, “I have no doubt I was involved.”
“I don’t agree I’m still a high security risk,” Hovey said. “I feel I’m more of a threat to myself.”
Lopez believes that the only reason Hovey wants to return to New Mexico is that if he kills again in Florida, he would be more likely to be sentenced to death.
“He shouldn’t be allowed to dictate to the state of Florida how he should be treated,” Lopez said. “He’s just not happy about being in Florida.”
Hovey’s attorney, Kari Converse, told Pope that her client’s constitutional rights are being violated in the Florida prison system. She said her client is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
Lopez told Pope that, if he allows Hovey to come back to New Mexico because he doesn’t like how he’s being treated, the court will be inundated with requests from everyone in prison who wants to come back to New Mexico.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.