The death penalty/sentencing phase of convicted cop killer Michael Astorga can’t stay in Bernalillo County, a judge has ruled so 1,200 jury questionnaires are on their way to Santa Fe County residents.
Astorga’s defense attorney Gary Mitchell (Santa Fe defense attorney Tom Clark is working co-counsel for Astorga) asked the venue be moved because there weren’t enough potential jurors for a fair sentencing phase.
Astorga was convicted of killing Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy James McGrane Jr. But while the crime occurred while the death penalty was still allowed in New Mexico, his conviction came after it was repealed.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled he could still face the death penalty if that’s what a jury decides. Now, it appears, that decision will be in the hands of a Santa Fe County jury. The jury selection will take place in March.
If a Santa Fe jury panel can’t be found, the selection process could then move to Las Cruces.