Byron Caton, a former district court judge and prosecutor in the 11th Judicial District, died on Jan. 17, 2010, after struggling with pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
Caton established a reputation as a peacemaker during a highly emotional trial in 1974, known as the Broken Circle case, in which three Navajo men had been killed. He prosecuted the case with Thomas Hynes, now a state district court judge.
During a period of high racial tension in the area, the case had intensified the unrest. "He and Tom were very prominent in their peacekeeping efforts," said Barbara Caton, Byron’s wife of more than 50 years.
Caton attended high school in Alamogordo and moved to Albuquerque to attend the University of New Mexico, where he played basketball. He remained a Lobo fan for the rest of his life. After three years in the U.S. Navy, he enrolled in the UNM School of Law, graduating in 1962.
A year later, Caton moved to Farmington with his wife and two daughters, initially joining the Webb & and Beavers Law Firm. For the next 28 years, he worked with a variety of Farmington law firms and the district attorney’s office.
"He was a good attorney and he had a lot of experience in different areas," said longtime friend Felix Briones (`57), who met Caton at a state student council convention during high school.
"Byron wanted to help whoever walked in the door," said Farmington City Attorney Doug Echols, who considers Caton one of the reasons he became a lawyer. "He treated everybody with the utmost courtesy and respect. He was one of those people whose word was absolutely good."
In 1991, Caton became a district court judge, spending the next 11 years on the bench.
Outside of the courtroom, he enjoyed hiking and skiing.