Forensic analyst Lawrence Renner, right, measures defense attorney Ben Ortega, center, in the hallway at state District Court in Santa Fe. Ortega will act as a model in a demonstration Renner will present to the jury Friday in the trial of Estevan Montoya, who is charged with murdering high school basketball standout Fedonta ‘JB’ White. Renner had arranged for David Wavamunno, left, to act as the model in the demonstration, but judge T. Glenn Ellington ruled Ortega would stand in instead.

State prosecutors who spent nearly seven full days of presenting evidence in the 2020 fatal shooting of Fedonta “JB” White rested their case Thursday against Estevan Montoya, the teen charged with killing the Santa Fe High School basketball standout.

The trial is scheduled to resume Friday, when Montoya’s defense attorneys, Dan Marlowe and Ben Ortega, will have an opportunity to present evidence on the teen’s behalf.

Whether Montoya will take the stand remains to be seen.

The most tense exchanges between prosecutors and defense attorneys occurred Thursday after jurors were sent home. A hearing was held outside their presence to determine whether forensic analyst Lawrence Renner — a proposed defense expert — would be allowed to testify.

Renner retired about 18 years ago from a decadeslong career that included stints at the Santa Fe Police Department and state Department of Public Safety.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Blake Nichols bombarded Renner with questions for an hour or more, many that seemed aimed at demonstrating his expertise was outdated and irrelevant and didn’t provide new information following testimony already given by a pathologist from the state Medical Investigator’s Office regarding the trajectory of the fatal bullet through White’s body.

Prosecutors have argued Montoya, then 16, baited White, 18, into a fight and then shot him point blank after a brief scuffle.

Montoya’s defense team has said the teen fired a shot over his shoulder in self-defense while fleeing from White.

The attorneys argue the downward angle of the bullet wound indicates White was pursuing Montoya when he was shot.

State District Judge T. Glenn Ellington ruled, over Nichols’ objections, Renner will be allowed to testify.

The judge also ruled Renner will be able to use a live model to demonstrate his conclusions regarding the case, but nixed Renner’s plan to use a young Ugandan man as the model. Nichols had argued that would do more than demonstrate angles — it also would allow the defense to paint an image of White as “a big, scary Black athlete.”

Renner had intended to have the model — David Wavamunno, who Renner said is about 5-foot-11 — stand on a short stool during the demonstration to more closely represent the height difference between White and Montoya.

Montoya is about 5-foot-9, according to Marlowe. White, who had been tapped to play basketball for the University of New Mexico Lobos in the fall of 2021, has been listed throughout his high school athletics career as being 6-foot-8. But a state medical examiner testified earlier this week White was just over 6-4.

Nichols strenuously objected to what he called the “absurdity” of Renner’s plan to use the proposed model, who wasn’t the same height or build as White.

“I’m 5-11,” Nichols said. “I offer myself in tribute rather than traipsing in a young Black man who is muscular, when it’s been defense’s clear intention all along to try to paint Mr. White as the big, scary Black athlete.”

“If Mr. Nichols wants to be the model, he can,” Marlowe said.

After some discussion about whether Nichols would have to change out of his suit and appear before the jury in T-shirt marked up to demonstrate the expert’s points, Marlowe’s co-counsel, Ortega, volunteered to act as the model, saying he, too, is about 5-foot-11.

“This whole exercise demonstrates the absurdity of this, judge,” Nichols said. “We are trying to replicate something that cannot be replicated. This is essentially the defense trying to get the defendant’s version of events out without subjecting him to cross-examination. … I object on those grounds and many others.”

Nichols added: “If he wants to put that on record, he can testify.”

The remark drew a reminder from Ellington that Montoya has no obligation to take the stand and is considered innocent until proven guilty, regardless of whether he testifies.

Ellington ruled Ortega will act as the model during the demonstration, which is scheduled to take place when the trial resumes Friday afternoon.

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