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State v. Castro

Supreme Court of New Mexico

August 24, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Petitioner,
v.
JESUS M. CASTRO, Defendant-Respondent.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING ON CERTIORARI Fernando R. Macias, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maha Khoury, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Petitioner

          McGraw & Strickland, L.L.C. Margaret Strickland Las Cruces, NM for Respondent.

          OPINION

          EDWARD L. CHÁVEZ, JUSTICE.

         {1} Defendant Jesus Castro was charged with two counts of criminal sexual penetration. Defendant had two trials; the first resulted in a mistrial, and thirty-two months later, after the second trial, a jury convicted him of one count of forced penile penetration. The delay was due to multiple continuances, attorney motions to withdraw from the case, the mistrial, and fifteen months during which the case was stagnant. We are mainly concerned with the thirty-two months it took to retry Defendant because his first trial occurred almost eleven months after his arraignment, which is within the speedy trial time frame for a simple case.

         {2} 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.

         {3} 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. State v. Castro, 2016-NMCA-085, ¶ 53, 381 P.3d 694. In addition, 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. Id.

         {4} The State filed a petition for writ of certiorari with this Court, State v. Castro, 2017-NMCERT- (No. S-1-SC-36062, Aug. 26, 2016), asking us 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." In answering this question, we necessarily analyze (1) whether Defendant's right to a speedy trial was violated, and if not, (2) whether he has proved a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         {5} We hold that on the record before us, 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, we reverse the Court of Appeals without prejudice to a habeas corpus petition, which Defendant may 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         {6} Defendant's arrest arose out of an encounter between him and the victim at Desert Aire Water Company in Chaparral, New Mexico, where they both worked. On February 2, 2009, the victim and Defendant were both at work. The victim testified that the following events then occurred. Defendant was already at work when she arrived; she greeted him and sat down at her computer. Defendant asked the victim for help with his computer, and she went over to him. As the victim stood next to Defendant, he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her toward him, causing her to fall on top of him. She was able to get up after she fell on Defendant, but as she walked away, Defendant grabbed her and sat her back on the chair. Defendant then placed his hands on the victim's legs and attempted to lift her skirt. She continuously told Defendant "no, " but he persisted. She tried to get up, but Defendant pushed her down again, and then pushed her against a counter. Defendant lifted the victim's skirt again and tried to move her underwear to the side as she tried to get away. Defendant then digitally penetrated the victim. Subsequently, Defendant penetrated her with his penis and ejaculated on the mat in front of them.

         {7} Defendant was arrested on February 6, 2009 and charged with two counts of criminal sexual penetration for the digital and penile penetration of the victim. He posted bond and was released on the same day as his arrest, and remained out of custody with few restrictions throughout the pendency of his case.

         {8} Defendant's first trial was almost eleven months after his arraignment, which ultimately resulted in a mistrial. Thirty-two months after his first trial, Defendant was tried again. Defendant's second jury acquitted on Count 1, forced digital penetration, and convicted on Count 2, forced penile penetration.

         II. DISCUSSION

         {9} The Court of Appeals conflated two separate, complex analyses in its opinion.

         The Court began its analysis by characterizing the case as "a unique appellate circumstance where Defendant's assertion of a constitutional violation of his right to a speedy trial is interrelated and potentially dependent upon his constitutional claim of ineffective assistance of counsel." Castro, 2016-NMCA-085, ¶ 1. In merging the speedy trial and ineffective assistance of counsel analyses, the Court relied on its interpretation of State v. Serros, 2016-NMSC-008, 366 P.3d 1121 and State v. Stock, 2006-NMCA-140, 140 N.M. 676, 147 P.3d 885, which considered attorney neglect in analyzing the Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972) speedy trial factors. Castr ...


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