AP NEWS

New Mexico Supreme Court takes up fatal pursuit cases

November 5, 2019 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Attorneys in New Mexico argued before the state’s Supreme Court whether defendants could face first-degree felony murder charges after causing fatal crashes while fleeing authorities, court officials said.

Felony murder is a count used when a person is killed during certain felony crimes, the Albuquerque Journal reported . The issue before the court Monday was whether the charge of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer is one of the crimes the state can use as a basis for a felony murder charge.

The state Supreme Court held in 2016 that the fleeing felony must have a purpose independent of the homicide. Prosecutors wrote in court filings that although the statute indicates any felony can be used as a basis for felony murder, the Supreme Court has limited the application of the charge.

District court officials argue avoiding apprehension is a purpose independent of the homicide.

Elexus Groves and a codefendant, Paul Garcia, were charged with murder after stealing a vehicle to flee a police traffic stop and fatally crashing into Shaunna Arredondo-Boling’s car, killing her and her 14-year-old daughter, authorities said.

In June 2017, authorities were trying to arrest David Barber on several felony warrants when he left his home in a stolen vehicle, leading officers on a chase resulting in multiple crashes, police said. One of the crashes fatally injured 39-year-old Tito Pacheco.

The cases were placed on hold indefinitely.

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court would come to a decision.

The defendants’ attorneys argue it is the public endangerment in aggravated fleeing that separates it from its misdemeanor charge, resisting or evading law enforcement.

Aggravated fleeing does not have a felonious purpose independent of endangering the physical health of a victim, said Nicholas Hart, an attorney for Garcia.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com