The New Mexico Supreme Court last week put on hold the DWI trial of former New Mexico State Police officer Abraham Baca.
Actually, the reason the Tuesday and Wednesday trial in front of State District Judge Stephen Pfeffer is because it will actually be the second time he’ll be asked to go to trial, which is why his defense attorney, Ben Ortega, the former standout high school star cross country and track state champion from Taos HS (sorry, that’s my sportswriting background sneaking in the blog), filed asked the court to toss the proposed retrial because of double-jeopardy issues.
Baca first had his case tossed out of Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court by Alex Naranjo, who dismissed the trial with prejudice in October. Naranjo had to go to district court to explain that decision in a March hearing before Pfeffer, who ruled the case could be retried.
The Attorney General’s Office, and special DWI prosecutor Donna Bevacqua-Young appealed Naranjo’s October decision to district court.
Baca, 32, was off-duty when arrested and charged with aggravated DWI on May 5, 2010, in Abiquiu, after a Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputy says he saw Baca’s truck swerving. Baca refused a breath test. He no longer works for state police. But in true Rio Arriba County fashion, he now works (part time) for the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office.
I sat through a March hearing on the matter and I would agree there seemed to be something fishy going on in Rio Arriba Magistrate Court with Naranjo’s decision, but the question then is whether the Attorney General’s issue here is with the Magistrate judge or if they truly can re-try a man for DWI.
Ortega told The New Mexican’s Tom Sharpe this last week:
“The implications for people’s civil rights are extraordinary in this case. I think that’s why the Supreme Court took it. Double jeopardy has been a fundamental principle for protecting people’s civil rights for a very long time now. It’s part of the Bill of Rights and it’s part of the state constitution.”— Ben Ortega, defense attorney for Abraham Baca
Here are a couple recent articles on the subject: