This was not a robbery. Simply a drug deal gone bad — attorney Ryan Villa

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The murder trial of Noah Duran lurched to a start Thursday after attorneys spent the morning debating whether a key prosecution witness should be allowed to testify.

Duran, 18, is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated battery and two other felonies in the Oct. 29, 2020, shooting death of 22-year-old Elijah Mirabal at a park in Northeast Albuquerque.

This marks Duran’s second trial on the same charges. Second Judicial District Judge Bruce Fox declared a mistrial May 2 after a jury deadlocked on all five felony counts. Jurors split 5-7 on the murder charge in that trial.

Prosecutors allege that Duran’s codefendant set up a drug deal on the social media platform Snapchat with the intention of robbing Mirabal at North Domingo Baca Park, just north of Wyoming and Paseo del Norte NE.

Mirabal pulled a handgun to defend himself and was killed in the resulting shootout, Assistant District Attorney Guinevere Ice told jurors during her opening statement.

Duran’s attorney, Ryan Villa, responded that Duran and another teenager went to the park to buy cocaine, and fired in self-defense after Mirabal pulled a pistol and began firing.

“This was not a robbery,” Villa told jurors. “Simply a drug deal gone bad.”

Before the jury was seated Thursday, Deputy District Attorney John Duran acknowledged that a key witness, Zachary Henderson, had lied under oath about two facts during his testimony in Noah Duran’s first trial, raising the possibility that Henderson could be charged with perjury.

Henderson, a key prosecution witness, was a passenger in Mirabal’s car and was shot in the leg during the exchange of gunfire.