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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

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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

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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on: (1) whether the arresting officer denied Defendant Stefan Chakerian the right to an independent chemical test in addition to one administered by police when arrested for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (DWI) when the officer provided Defendant with a telephone and telephone directory, but took no additional steps to help Defendant arrange for the test; and (2) what role law enforcement officers have after an arrestee expresses a desire for an additional test under Section 66-8-109(B). The Court of Appeals held that Section 66-8-109(B) required law enforcement to “meaningfully cooperate” with an arrestee who desired to obtain an additional chemical test, and reversed Defendant’s DWI conviction. The Supreme Court held Section 66-8-109(B) required law enforcement to advise an arrestee of the arrestee’s right to be given an opportunity to arrange for a qualified person of the arrestee’s own choosing to perform a chemical test in addition to any test performed at the direction of the arresting officer. This section does not, however, confer any additional obligation on law enforcement to facilitate the arrestee in actually arranging for the test. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the metropolitan court convictions of DWI and speeding. View "New Mexico v. Chakerian" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on: (1) whether the arresting officer denied Defendant Stefan Chakerian the right to an independent chemical test in addition to one administered by police when arrested for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (DWI) when the officer provided Defendant with a telephone and telephone directory, but took no additional steps to help Defendant arrange for the test; and (2) what role law enforcement officers have after an arrestee expresses a desire for an additional test under Section 66-8-109(B). The Court of Appeals held that Section 66-8-109(B) required law enforcement to “meaningfully cooperate” with an arrestee who desired to obtain an additional chemical test, and reversed Defendant’s DWI conviction. The Supreme Court held Section 66-8-109(B) required law enforcement to advise an arrestee of the arrestee’s right to be given an opportunity to arrange for a qualified person of the arrestee’s own choosing to perform a chemical test in addition to any test performed at the direction of the arresting officer. This section does not, however, confer any additional obligation on law enforcement to facilitate the arrestee in actually arranging for the test. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the metropolitan court convictions of DWI and speeding. View "New Mexico v. Chakerian" on Justia Law

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Enduro Operating, LLC and Echo Production, Inc. were two of several parties to a joint operating agreement (JOA). Under the JOA, Echo, as a party wishing to undertake a new drilling project, had to provide notice of the proposed project to the other parties to the JOA, who then had thirty days to decide whether to opt in or out of the project. By opting in, a party agreed to share in the cost and risk of the project. If a party opted out of the project (as Enduro did in this case), then the party was deemed “non-consenting,” and exempt from any of the cost or risk associated with the new project, but could not share in any of the profits from the new project until the consenting parties recovered four-hundred percent of the labor and equipment costs invested in the new project. The question before us is what activities are adequate as a matter of law to 6 satisfy the contractual requirement that a consenting party actually commence the 7 drilling operation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the language in Johnson v. Yates Petroleum Corp., 981 P.2d 288, indicating that “any” preparatory activities would be sufficient was too permissive. The Court of Appeals was persuaded that Echo’s lack of on-site activity at the proposed well site, other than surveying and staking, and lack of a permit to commence drilling was evidence as a matter of law that Echo had not actually commenced drilling operations. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Echo and remanded for an entry of summary judgment in favor of Enduro. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, holding that the failure to obtain an approved drilling permit within the relevant commencement period was not dispositive; “[a] party may prove that it has actually commenced drilling operations with evidence that it committed resources, whether on-site or off-site, that demonstrate its present good-faith intent to diligently carry on drilling activities until completion. “ View "Enduro Operating LLC v. Echo Prod., Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Corey Franklin pled guilty to one count of first-degree, willful and deliberate murder, the only offense currently designated as a “capital felony,” in exchange for life in prison with a possibility of parole. Due to his first-degree murder conviction, Defendant was subject to sentencing pursuant to Section 31-18-14. See § 30-2-1(A). Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of a five-year period of parole after serving thirty years in prison. Prior to sentencing, Defendant filed a motion seeking the opportunity to present mitigating evidence which could eventually shorten his sentence. While Defendant acknowledged that Section 31-18-14 did not expressly provide an opportunity to present mitigating evidence at the time of sentencing to those convicted of first-degree murder, he argued that this violated his due process rights under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under Article II, Section 13 of the New Mexico Constitution. In his motion, Defendant noted that persons convicted of a lesser offense are provided with an opportunity to present mitigating circumstances at sentencing, which places them in a stronger position for parole than first-degree murderers. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to declare Section 31-18-14 7 unconstitutional and concluded that it was within the Legislature’s authority to decline to provide the opportunity to present evidence of mitigating circumstances to the most serious offenders. The district court entered final judgment and sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment with the possibility of a five-year 11 period of parole after he served thirty years in prison. On appeal, Defendant abandoned his constitutional arguments, and instead challenged the sentencing distinction on equal protection grounds. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that defendants convicted of first-degree murder and those convicted of lesser offenses are not similarly situated, and consequently, Section 31-18-14 did not violated Defendant’s constitutional right to equal protection. View "New Mexico v. Franklin" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the New Mexico Public Education Department could take into consideration federal impact aid payments a school district receives, or is anticipated to receive, in the Department’s allocation of state equalization guarantee (SEG) distribution payments to the district during the fiscal year. The Court determined the Department could not reduce SEG distribution payments to a district based on anticipated impact aid payments or payments actually received until the State has received certification from the Secretary of the United States Department of Education (DOE Secretary) or the State has obtained permission from the DOE Secretary to consider impact aid prior to certification. Once the State has received its certification from the DOE Secretary, the certification shall apply retroactively to any impact aid payments received by the district during the entire fiscal year. View "N.M. Pub. Educ. Dep't v. Zuni Pub. Sch. Dist. #89" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the New Mexico Public Education Department could take into consideration federal impact aid payments a school district receives, or is anticipated to receive, in the Department’s allocation of state equalization guarantee (SEG) distribution payments to the district during the fiscal year. The Court determined the Department could not reduce SEG distribution payments to a district based on anticipated impact aid payments or payments actually received until the State has received certification from the Secretary of the United States Department of Education (DOE Secretary) or the State has obtained permission from the DOE Secretary to consider impact aid prior to certification. Once the State has received its certification from the DOE Secretary, the certification shall apply retroactively to any impact aid payments received by the district during the entire fiscal year. View "N.M. Pub. Educ. Dep't v. Zuni Pub. Sch. Dist. #89" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a dispute between insureds, Nancy Vigil and her stepson Martin Vigil, and their insurance company, Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, as to whether the Vigils’ policy was in effect at the time of a November 4, 2002, car accident. The parties’ dispute has been the subject of two jury trials and two appeals to the Court of Appeals. The New Mexico Supreme Court limited its review to the propriety of two evidentiary rulings that the district court made prior to the second trial. The Court of Appeals held that the district court erred by excluding evidence at the second trial of: (1) a previous judge’s summary judgment ruling that the Vigils lacked coverage on the date of the accident, a ruling that had been reversed in “Progressive I;” and (2) Progressive’s payment of $200,000 under the Vigils’ policy to settle third-party claims while this litigation was pending. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held the district court acted within its discretion to exclude the evidence under Rule 11-403 19 NMRA, which permitted the district court to “exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” The case was remanded back to the Court of Appeals to address the remaining issues that Progressive raised on appeal. View "Progressive Cas. Co. v. Vigil" on Justia Law