A judge has denied the latest request for a new trial from a man serving two life sentences in the killing of a Scottsbluff man and his girlfriend.
A Scotts Bluff County District Court jury convicted Jeff Boppre, now 57, in March 1989 in the September 1988 murders of Richard Valdez and his girlfriend, Sharon Condon.
A hearing on Boppre’s latest bid was held in September 2020 and Judge Andrea Miller issued a ruling on March 31. Essentially, Miller said in the ruling, Boppre can’t get a new trial simply to attack evidence entered in the trial that resulted in his conviction.
Judge Andrea Miller’s ruling began with a summary of the extensive history of Boppre’s case since he was convicted in March 15, 1989, by a Scotts Bluff County District Court grand jury and sentenced to two life sentences. His convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal.
Since March 13, 1992, Boppre has sought a new trial in his case four times. He submitted motions for new trials in March 1992, May 2008, Dec. 2018 and an amended motion for new trial in October 2019.
He filed motions for post-conviction relief in August 1995, October 2002, May 2008 and August 2012. In the 32 years since Boppre’s conviction, the case has repeatedly been in front of judges of the local district court, the Nebraska Supreme Court and even the U.S. Court of Appeals.
In his filings for a new trial, Boppre has alleged another man, John Yellowboy, is responsible for the murders. Boppre entered two affidavits from women who he says claimed that Yellowboy confessed to killing Valdez and Condon. One of the witnesses, Melissa Moreno, has claimed that she was hiding in the home as the murders were occurring. However, according to documents entered throughout the history of the case, Moreno has also recanted those claims at times.
Miller said Boppre’s request for an evidentiary hearing on his latest claims involving Yellowboy is denied.
“The allegations against Yellowboy are not new evidence as claimed by Boppre,” she said, noting that claims regarding an alleged confession, DNA evidence and citing the man’s criminal history have previously been litigated and denied.
She cited that Boppre has filed several postconviction motions, all of which have been denied, and Boppre had the opportunity to assert the same claims, and in fact, did make the same allegations previously. Also, she said, hearsay statements are not likely admissible, as well as statements of events which occurred after the trial and those not supported by affidavits, depositions or oral statements. Yellowboy has not confessed to murdering Condon and Valdez. Instead, Boppre’s claims are based on the statements of others, including Moreno.
Boppre also contends that new enhanced photos of the murder weapon discredit testimony from two accomplices in the murder and law enforcement. During Boppre’s trial, law enforcement testified about recovering the weapon involved in the crimes in New Mexico. According to Boppre, enhanced photos and information “show the weapon retrieved in New Mexico could not have been the murder weapon used and tested for evidence at trial,” Miller summarizes in the ruling.
Miller denied a motion for new trial based on the purported gun evidence, saying that Boppre used images that he says he obtained in 2008. The photos are not new evidence, she said.
“Boppre has provided no supporting evidence to justify the new evidence could not with reasonable diligence have been discovered and produced at trial,” she said in the ruling.
She said in the ruling that though Boppre makes several statements in his filings, he also failed to produce any affidavit, deposition or oral testimony of any nature to support his claims of new evidence. At trial, Miller said, Boppre had entered his own firearms analysis expert to refute the testimony of the state’s firearms expert.
In his motion for new trial, Boppre also attempted to refute the state’s position that Valdez had written a dying declaration that pointed to Boppre.
Prosecutors alleged Boppre stole drug money before killing Valdez, who prosecutors said wrote a “dying declaration” identifying his killer. At the scene, investigators found the letters “JFF BOPPE” written in grease and the name “JEFF” written in blood near Valdez’s body. Boppre claims that he has new evidence that refutes that the letters could have been written by Valdez.
To back his claims, he asserts that photos from Valdez’s autopsy, crime scene and high definition autopsy photos were discovered in 2019 and warrant a new trial. However, Miller said, he fails to offer any affidavits, depositions or oral testimony to show they are newly discovered.
“Boppre has made prior attempts to attack the dying declarations found at the scene, all of which have been denied and upheld on appeal,” Miller said.
Other claims, taken alone or collectively, fail to show Boppre is entitled to an evidentiary hearing, Miller said.
Testimony from Boppre’s witnesses, she said, are just an attempt to attack the trial testimony of the state’s witness, a pathologist who conducted Valdez’s autopsy and said that Valdez could have been capable of making the declaring declaration. “Attacks on trial testimony related to credibility no matter how phrased or rephrased do not warrant a new trial.”
Boppre makes several other claims attacking the evidence presented at trial and challenging it. Essentially, his motion for new trial seeks to attack the credibility of evidence in the case, after trial. His claims attack everything from the prosecutor on the case, Brian Silverman, to challenging his own defense attorney, Leonard Tabor, who he said had a conflict of interest because he had previously represented a witness in the case.
In each instance, Miller outlines repeatedly throughout the ruling, Boppre fails to show that evidence presented in his latest claims were not available at trial with reasonable diligence and able to be used at trial or in his previous motions for postconviction.