Articles Posted in New Mexico Supreme Court

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On November 1, 2011, officers discovered Defendant Matias Loza smelling strongly of gasoline and cowering under a fifth-wheel trailer. One hundred yards away, a Suzuki automobile containing the human remains of Richard Valdez was fully engulfed in flames. Shoeprints in the area were consistent with the shoes Defendant was wearing. After claiming that he had been brought to the area by a truck, which he had just escaped after being shot at by its occupants, Defendant offered one of the officers $40,000 to let him go free. Following a more extensive investigation into Defendant’s background and his reasons for being so near the murder scene, detectives ascertained Defendant was connected with the AZ Boys gang, and gathered further intelligence from anonymous sources that Defendant had in fact served as a hitman and killed Valdez in connection with the gang’s drug trafficking activity. In this case, the issue before the New Mexico Supreme Court was whether defendant’s racketeering convictions foreclosed a subsequent prosecution for the crimes alleged as the predicate offenses in the earlier racketeering case. In support of the racketeering charges, the State alleged the underlying predicate offenses of murder, arson, and bribery of a public officer. The State then sought to prosecute Defendant for the crimes alleged as the predicate offenses in the earlier prosecution-murder, arson, and bribery-as well as other related charges. Defendant contended this subsequent prosecution violated his Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy, and the his Article II, Section 15 rights from the New Mexico Constitution. Disagreeing that double jeopardy attached to the subsequent prosecution, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Defendant's motion to dismiss. View "New Mexico v. Loza" on Justia Law

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Defendants Isaac Martinez and Carla Casias were each indicted on one count of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Early in the investigation of the robbery, a police detective enlisted the help of the deputy district attorney, who prepared and authorized service of what purported to be judicial subpoenas duces tecum (the subpoenas) to obtain records of calls and text messages of suspects from their cellular telephone providers. These purported subpoenas represented on their face that they were issued in the name of the Eighth Judicial District Court, although at the time of their preparation and service there was no pending prosecution, court action, or grand jury proceeding. Over signature of the deputy district attorney, some of these purported subpoenas ordered production of “Call Detail Records, and Text Message Detail” for the specified phones, all ordered subscriber information, and all ordered production to the Taos Police Department with the warning, “IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY WITH THIS SUBPOENA, you may be held in contempt of court and punished by fine or imprisonment.” These early subpoenas were filed with the district court in a miscellaneous court docket, rather than a criminal or grand jury docket, but they were styled as “State of New Mexico, Plaintiff, vs. John Doe, Defendant.” The detective used information gained from the early subpoenas to obtain search warrants for additional evidence. In this case, the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed whether a court could dismiss an indictment because evidence considered by the grand jury had been developed through use of unlawful subpoenas. The Supreme Court confirmed “almost a century of judicial precedents in New Mexico” and held that, absent statutory authorization, a court may not overturn an otherwise lawful grand jury indictment because of trial inadmissibility or improprieties in the procurement of evidence that was considered by the grand jury. View "New Mexico v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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In 2009, the New Mexico legislative and executive branches statutorily abolished capital punishment for first-degree murder, the only remaining New Mexico crime carrying a potential death sentence, for all offenses committed after July 1, 2009. Defendant Muhammad Ameer was charged with first-degree murder committed on or after July 1, 2009. In this appeal, an issue arose from the district court’s order applying the capital offense exception to the constitutional right to bail and denying Defendant any form of pretrial release. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that first-degree murder was not currently a constitutionally defined capital offense in New Mexico that would authorize a judge to categorically deny release pending trial. Following briefing and oral argument, the Supreme Court issued a bench ruling and written order reversing the district court’s detention order that had been based solely on the capital offense exception. In the same order, the Supreme Court remanded the case for the district court to consider the State’s unaddressed request for detention under the 2016 amendment to Article II, 4 Section 13 of the New Mexico Constitution, allowing courts a new and broader evidence-based authority to deny pretrial release for any felony defendant “if the prosecuting authority . . . proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community.” At that time, the Court advised its opinion would follow; this was the opinion setting forth the Court’s reasoning. View "New Mexico v. Ameer" on Justia Law

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Just after midnight on September 8, 2012, Defendant John Radosevich’s neighbor called 911 to report that Defendant was yelling obscenities and throwing objects into his yard. After calling the police, the neighbor walked outside his house to investigate. Defendant met the neighbor in the alleyway between their homes and, following a verbal exchange, Defendant threatened to stab the neighbor with “a little steak knife.” Moments later an officer arrived at the scene, and Defendant threw the knife away and returned to his house. An officer subsequently recovered the knife. The State charged Defendant with assault with intent to commit murder (a third-degree felony) and tampering with evidence (a fourth-degree felony). The district court directed a verdict in Defendant’s favor on the assault with intent to murder charge and then, over Defendant’s objection, instructed the jury on an uncharged crime, assault with a deadly weapon. Defendant was convicted of both assault with a deadly weapon (a fourth-degree felony), and tampering with evidence. Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals, and the appellate court reversed the assault charge. The Court of Appeals also addressed Defendant’s argument that because his tampering conviction was “tied to his conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, he should be retried for tampering or permitted to challenge the degree of his conviction,” based on his contention that the offense for which tampering could have been committed was a misdemeanor, making the tampering offense a petty misdemeanor. Rather than remanding for a new trial, the Court of Appeals held that because the tampering jury instruction did not tie to an identified crime, defendant's conviction was relative to an indeterminate crime and should be amended, not retried. The case was then remanded for the district court to simple amend Defendant's judgement and sentence to impose felony tampering under the applicable statute's indeterminate crime provision. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed. The offense of tampering where the level of the underlying crime cannot be determined beyond a reasonable doubt is punishable at the lowest penalty classification for tampering; the highest crime for which tampering with evidence of a probation violation is committed is the highest crime for which the defendant is on probation, rather than an indeterminate crime. View "New Mexico v. Radosevich" on Justia Law

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Defendant Oscar Arvizo was found guilty of two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor (CSCM) by a person in a position of authority, one in the second degree and one in the third degree. The Court of Appeals reversed the two convictions, holding that the evidence failed to prove that Defendant “used his position of authority to coerce A.B. to submit to criminal sexual contact[s]” because “when both sexual contacts took place without warning, A.B. immediately pushed Defendant away.” The State sought further review of a single issue: whether “the Court of Appeals erroneously [held] that a child’s physical resistance after the fact negates other evidence for the element of coercion by a person in a position of authority in a conviction for CSCM.” The New Mexico Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the convictions, finding the evidence sufficient to find defendant coerced A.B. and this was not negated because she pushed defendant's hand away after each sexual contact. View "New Mexico v. Arvizo" on Justia Law

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Three federal Supreme Court cases created a special category under the Eighth Amendment for juvenile offenders whose culpability was mitigated by adolescence and immaturity. "The cases recognize that a juvenile is more likely to be rehabilitated than an adult and therefore should receive a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating maturity and rehabilitation." Petitioner Joel Ira, was sentenced as a juvenile to 91.5 years after he pled no contest to several counts of criminal sexual penetration and intimidation of a witness - crimes which he committed when he was fourteen and fifteen years old. Under the relevant New Mexico Earned Meritorious Deduction Act (EMDA), petitioner would be eligible for parole when he has served one-half of his sentence (approximately 46 years) if he maintained good behavior while incarcerated. He would be approximately 62 years old when he could first be eligible for parole. Petitioner sought habeas relief, arguing that his sentence would be cruel and unusual punishment because it amounted to a life sentence. He relied on both New Mexico and federal Supreme Court jurisprudence as grounds for relief. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010) applied when a multiple term-of-years sentence would in all likelihood keep a juvenile in prison for the rest of his or her life because the juvenile would be deprived of a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating his or her maturity and rehabilitation. In this case, petitioner could be eligible for a parole hearing when he reached 62 years old if he demonstrated good behavior under the EMDA. Therefore, the New Mexico Court concluded petitioner had a meaningful opportunity to obtain release by demonstrating his maturity and rehabilitation before the Parole Board. View "Ira v. Janecka" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed Defendant Juan Galindo’s convictions for child abuse resulting in the death of his twenty-eight-day-old daughter (Baby) and his convictions for two counts of aggravated criminal sexual penetration (CSP) of Baby. The Court also affirmed Defendant’s convictions for child abuse against his thirteen-year-old daughter, B.G., for endangering her emotional health. In addition, the Court held the district court properly admitted into evidence a statement that Defendant gave to law enforcement on the night of Baby’s death, as well as photographic evidence revealing the extensive injuries Baby suffered, including fatal, blunt-force trauma to her head and multiple internal and external injuries to her genital and anal areas. The case was remanded for resentencing in light of Defendant’s duplicative convictions of child abuse resulting in Baby’s death and of child abuse against B.G. View "New Mexico v. Galindo" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed Defendant Juan Galindo’s convictions for child abuse resulting in the death of his twenty-eight-day-old daughter (Baby) and his convictions for two counts of aggravated criminal sexual penetration (CSP) of Baby. The Court also affirmed Defendant’s convictions for child abuse against his thirteen-year-old daughter, B.G., for endangering her emotional health. In addition, the Court held the district court properly admitted into evidence a statement that Defendant gave to law enforcement on the night of Baby’s death, as well as photographic evidence revealing the extensive injuries Baby suffered, including fatal, blunt-force trauma to her head and multiple internal and external injuries to her genital and anal areas. The case was remanded for resentencing in light of Defendant’s duplicative convictions of child abuse resulting in Baby’s death and of child abuse against B.G. View "New Mexico v. Galindo" on Justia Law

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Defendant Shanah Chadwick-McNally was charged with an open count of first-degree murder and faced a potential sentence of life without the possibility of release or parole (LWOP). She argued in this interlocutory appeal that, due to her possible LWOP sentence, she had to be afforded the heightened procedural protections that applied when the State sought the death penalty. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that death penalty procedures did not apply in this case for the simple reason that “[t]he extraordinary penalty of death” was not implicated. View "New Mexico v. Chadwick-McNally" on Justia Law

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In an issue of first impression, the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed an issue of whether evidence of non-violent crimes committed in the presence of a police officer after an unconstitutional traffic stop had to be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment of the federal Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. Defendant Edward Tapia, Sr. entered a conditional plea of guilty to one count of forgery, for signing his brother’s name to a traffic citation charging failure to wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle, and reserved his right to appeal. The Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding that the initial stop was illegal, and the subsequent evidence of concealing identity and forgery was not sufficiently removed from the taint of the illegal stop to justify admitting that evidence. The Supreme Court held the new crime exception to the exclusionary rule may apply to both violent and non-violent crimes committed in response to unlawful police action. Defendant’s attempts to conceal his identity after the unlawful traffic stop sufficiently purged the taint of the initial illegality so as to render the exclusionary rule inapplicable under both the Fourth Amendment and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. The evidence of the seat belt violation obtained as a direct result of the unlawful stop was correctly suppressed. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals was reversed Defendant’s conviction reinstated. View "New Mexico v. Tapia" on Justia Law