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A jury found Defendant Alejandro Ramirez guilty of shooting and killing Johnny Vialpando. Ramirez was convicted of several offenses, including first-degree murder, and the district court sentenced Ramirez to life imprisonment plus an additional sixty-five and one-half years. Ramirez appeals directly to the New Mexico Supreme Court, arguing: (1) there was insufficient evidence presented to support his convictions; (2) his right to due process was violated when the district court permitted several eyewitnesses to identify him in court as the shooter; and (3) his convictions violated the double-jeopardy guarantee against multiple punishments. With respect to the murder conviction, the Supreme Court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions, the district court did not violate Ramirez’s right to due process by allowing the in-court identifications, and double jeopardy precluded the district court from convicting Ramirez of first-degree murder and shooting at a motor vehicle. The Court vacated Ramirez's shooting-at-a-motor-vehicle conviction and remanded for resentencing. View "New Mexico v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Sarah Cahn invoked the due process exception to the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), but did not file her late-accruing medical malpractice claim against Respondent John Berryman, M.D. within twelve months. Twenty-one months elapsed between the accrual date of Cahn’s claim against Dr. Berryman and the date she filed suit against him. Thus, her claim was barred by Section 41-5-13 of the Act. By this opinion, the New Mexico Supreme Court clarified the contours of the due process exception, and held that plaintiffs with late-accruing medical malpractice claims, i.e., claims accruing in the last twelve months of the three-year repose period, shall have twelve months from the time of accrual to commence suit. View "Cahn v. Berryman" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the inventory search exception to the warrant requirement. Wesley Davis was arrested for operating a motorcycle without a license. Davis was carrying a backpack; during the stop, an Eddy County sheriff deputy searched the backpack and found marijuana. Davis was charged with one count of distribution of marijuana. He moved to suppress the marijuana, arguing the search was unlawful because Davis did not possess the backpack "on his person or in his physical possession." The New Mexico Supreme Court disagreed that possession in the inventory search context should have been so narrowly construed, and concluded Davis possessed the backpack at the time of his arrest. Therefore the inventory search was valid. The Court of Appeals judgment holding to the contrary was reversed. View "New Mexico v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Defendant John Ochoa appealed his convictions relating to criminal sexual contact of a minor, and the Court of Appeals reversed on speedy trial grounds. Defendant was arrested in 2008. Prior to a mistrial in 2010, trial was delayed for a number of reasons including a furlough affecting the New Mexico Public Defender Department. Defendant was incarcerated for the entire pretrial period. The Court of Appeals determined defendant was prejudiced by his two-year pretrial incarceration. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that neither the length of delay, the reason for delay, nor the assertion of the right to a speedy trial weighed heavily in defendant’s favor: “We presume that Defendant suffered some prejudice as a result of his continuous pretrial incarceration, but our presumption does not outweigh the other three factors. Thus, despite the obvious prejudice to Defendant, his right to a speedy trial was not violated.” View "New Mexico v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

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In the early morning April 23, 2011, the Bernalillo County Sheriff Department was conducting a DWI checkpoint in Albuquerque. Defendant Laressa Vargas was pulled over as part of the checkpoint. The Deputy at the checkpoint immediately noticed the odor of alcohol emanating from both Vargas’s person and her vehicle. The Deputy asked Vargas if she had been drinking, to which she answered that she had not. The Deputy requested that Vargas submit to field sobriety tests (FSTs), and Vargas agreed. Vargas performed poorly on the FSTs. At that point, the Deputy believed that Vargas was intoxicated and could not safely operate a vehicle, so he placed her under arrest. Defendant Vargas consented to and submitted to two breath tests, but refused to consent to a blood test. The arresting deputy did not obtain a warrant for a blood test, nor could he do so under New Mexico law, because he did not have probable cause to believe that Vargas had committed a felony or caused death or great bodily injury to another person while driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Vargas was convicted of violating NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-102(D)(3) (2010, amended 2016) because she refused to submit to a blood test; she received a sentence of ninety days in jail, with credit for seventy-five days for time served. In Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 9 2160 (2016), the United States Supreme Court held that a person who is arrested for DWI may be punished for refusing to submit to a breath test under an implied consent law, but may not be punished for refusing to consent to or submit to a blood test under an implied consent law unless the officer either (a) obtains a warrant, or (b) proves probable cause to require the blood test in addition to exigent circumstances. The Birchfield opinion had not been decided when the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court entered its judgment convicting Vargas; however, Birchfield was published while Vargas’s appeal was pending before the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals applied Birchfield and reversed Vargas’s conviction for aggravated DWI. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals correctly applied Birchfield to the pending appeal. View "New Mexico v. Vargas" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant Benjamin David Baroz III of felony murder based on the predicate felony of shooting at or from a motor vehicle, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The conviction of shooting at or from a motor vehicle was vacated on double jeopardy grounds. Defendant argued on appeal of those convictions that he was entitled to a new trial because: (1) shooting at or from a motor vehicle cannot serve as a predicate felony for felony murder; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction of second-degree murder; (3) the district court erred in denying his request for a jury instruction on self-defense; (4) the one-year firearm enhancements on his sentences for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon violated double jeopardy; and (5) the State should not have been allowed to impeach his trial testimony with a statement obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s felony murder conviction and ordered that a conviction of second-degree murder be entered instead. The Court affirmed the district court’s holdings that: (1) Defendant was not entitled to a self-defense instruction; (2) the imposition of a one-year firearm enhancement on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon conviction did not violate double jeopardy; and (3) the statements Defendant made after invoking his right to remain silent were voluntary and could be used for impeachment. View "New Mexico v. Baroz" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court consolidated two separate appeals of a final order of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) that granted a taxicab certificate to Q Cab, LLC for new taxicab service in Albuquerque. Two preexisting taxicab companies, Albuquerque Cab Company (Albuquerque Cab) and Yellow-Checker Cab Company (Yellow Cab) wanted the New Mexico Supreme Court to interpret the Motor Carrier Act, NMSA 1978, section 65-2A-1 to -41 (2003, as amended through 2017), because the Act had been recently amended, creating separate designations for “municipal” and “general” taxicab services, and added a definition of fitness which a candidate taxicab company must show, and the PRC must find, before an applicant may operate. The two preexisting companies sought a declaration with respect to their ability to protest new taxicab applications. The PRC determined Q Cab was fit to operate. The Supreme Court, after review, determined Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab were not statutorily protected from competing applicants; Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab both failed to demonstrate their respective businesses would be impaired; and that the PRC’s determination that Q Cab was fit to operated was supported by substantial evidence and was within the agency’s discretion. The Supreme Court affirmed the PRC’s final order. View "Albuquerque Cab Company, Inc. v. New Mexico Public Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jesus Castro was charged with two counts of criminal sexual penetration. Defendant had two trials: the first resulted in a mistrial, and after the second, a jury convicted him of one count of forced penile penetration. The time between the trials was thirty-two months. The delay was due to multiple continuances, attorney motions to withdraw, the mistrial, and fifteen months during which the case was stagnant. Despite the delay in setting his retrial, neither Defendant nor his attorney, Jonathan Huerta, asserted Defendant’s right to a speedy trial before his conviction. Four and one-half months after Defendant’s conviction, his new attorney filed a post- trial motion to dismiss with the district court based on speedy trial grounds. The motion alleged that Defendant failed to assert his right earlier due to ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss. On appeal, the Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the district court, instructing it to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there was ineffective assistance of counsel, particularly regarding Huerta’s failure to assert Defendant’s right to a speedy trial. If the district court found that Huerta’s assistance was constitutionally ineffective, the Court of Appeals instructed it to reassess whether Defendant’s right to a speedy trial had been violated. The State filed a petition for writ of certiorari with New Mexico Supreme Court to determine whether “the mere failure to file a demand for a speedy trial establish[es] a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel.” The Court held Defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated and Defendant did not make a prima facie showing of ineffective assistance of counsel because Huerta may have strategically withheld a demand for a speedy trial if it would benefit Defendant’s case. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals without prejudice to a habeas corpus petition, which Defendant could bring to resolve whether Huerta provided ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to assert Defendant’s speedy trial right, in addition to any other allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "New Mexico v. Castro" on Justia Law

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Respondent El Castillo Retirement Residences was a self-sustaining retirement and continuing care community, funded entirely by admission and monthly fees paid by residents who have met El Castillo’s requirements for sufficient financial resources, including a minimum net worth, and have satisfied specific health criteria. It did not accept residents who are Medicare or Medicaid-dependent, or charity-dependent or any residents who cannot afford to buy their way into the community. It neither donated any significant services or property to charitable causes, nor used its property primarily and substantially for a charitable purpose. The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that El Castillo did not use its property for charitable purposes and was therefore not exempt from the constitutional requirement 5 of equal taxation, the Court used the opportunity of this opinion to clarify that Section 7-36-7(B)(1)(d) must be read in harmony with controlling constitutional requirements. Accordingly, the Court held that El Castillo was not entitled to property-tax exemptions under either Section 7-36- 8 7(B)(1)(d) or Article VIII, Section 3 of the New Mexico Constitution because El Castillo did not use its property primarily for substantial public benefit furthering charitable purposes. View "El Castillo Ret. Residences v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner League of Women Voters of New Mexico sought a writ of mandamus directing Respondent Advisory Committee to the New Mexico Compilation Commission, to effectuate the compilation of three constitutional amendments to the so-called “unamendable section” of the New Mexico Constitution. Article VII, Sections 1 and 3 of the New Mexico Constitution set forth the elective franchise; the two provisions work in tandem to establish and guarantee the right to vote. Section 1, among other things, identifies who is qualified to vote; and Section 3 protects the right from being “restricted, abridged or impaired on account of religion, race, language or color, or inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish 9 languages . . . .” To protect the elective franchise even further, the framers declared in two separate constitutional provisions that Article VII, Sections 1 and 3 “shall never be 12 amended except upon a vote of the people of this state in an election at which at least three-fourths of the electors voting in the whole state . . . shall vote for such amendment.” The proposed amendments to Article VII, Section 1 were submitted to the electorate in 2008, 2010, and 2014, and each received more than a majority, but less than a three-fourths super-majority, of the vote. The Compilation Commission did not compile the amendments into the Constitution. Petitioner asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to clarify that under a separate constitutional provision, the 2008, 2010, and 2014 amendments required the approval of only a simple majority of the voters. Respondent took no position on the merits of the question presented, but asked that the Court deny the petition on the grounds that Respondent was not a proper party. After full briefing by the parties and by numerous amici curiae and after hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued a writ of mandamus as requested by Petitioner. View "New Mexico ex rel. League of Women Voters v. Advisory Comm. to the N.M. Compilation Comm'n" on Justia Law