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State v. Franklin

Supreme Court of New Mexico

October 19, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRYCE L. FRANKLIN, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF CIBOLA COUNTY George P. Eichwald, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General John J. Woykovsky, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          L. Helen Bennett, P.C. Linda Helen Bennett Albuquerque, NM for Appellant

          DECISION

          JUDITH K. NAKAMURA, Chief Justice

         {1} Defendant Bryce Franklin was convicted of first degree murder and other offenses. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, plus seven and one-half years to be run consecutively and appeals directly to this court. N.M. Const. art. VI, § 2; Rule 12-102(A)(1) NMRA. Franklin contends that his convictions should be reversed and his case remanded for dismissal of the charges because "the district court erred in denying [his] multiple motions to dismiss for violations of his constitutional right to a speedy trial." We reject this challenge and affirm his convictions. We issue this non-precedential decision because Franklin raises no questions of law that New Mexico precedent does not already sufficiently address. Rule 12-405(B)(1) NMRA.

         I. BACKGROUND

         {2} What follows is only a brief overview of the events in Franklin's case. Additional facts will be presented as necessary in the course of our discussion. On December 1, 2012, the police discovered the corpse of Fernando Enriquez at the bottom of a collapsed lava tube (a large hole) in El Malpais National Monument, which is in west-central New Mexico. Information the police received indicated that Franklin had killed Enriquez. When police discovered Enriquez's corpse and received the information linking Franklin to Enriquez's death, Franklin was already incarcerated for violating probation in an entirely unrelated matter and was serving the approximately five remaining years of a nine-year sentence. A warrant to arrest Franklin for the suspected killing of Enriquez was served on Franklin at the Cibola County Detention Center where he was already imprisoned.

         {3} On December 17, 2012, Franklin was indicted for the murder of Enriquez. On December 26, 2012, Franklin filed a pro forma demand for a speedy trial. During pretrial proceedings, Franklin filed two almost-identical motions to dismiss for violation of his right to a speedy trial: the first was filed on May 1, 2014 and the second was filed on November 17, 2014.

         {4} Franklin's trial commenced on August 10, 2015, roughly thirty-two months after he was indicted. The district court finally adjudicated the speedy-trial issue at the outset of trial. After both parties presented argument, the district court denied the motion. The court concluded that (1) Franklin's case is complex; (2) Franklin asserted his right to a speedy trial; (3) the delay was attributable to administrative difficulties; and (4) Franklin was not prejudiced by the delay as he was incarcerated for other matters during the entire period of delay. Franklin contends that the court was wrong when it concluded that his speedy trial rights were not violated.

         II. DISCUSSION

         {5} We use the four-factor test articulated in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972) "[t]o determine whether the accused has been deprived of his speedy trial right." State v. Samora, 2016-NMSC-031, ¶ 9, 387 P.3d 230. We consider "(1) the length of delay in bringing the case to trial, (2) the reasons for the delay, (3) the defendant's assertion of the right to a speedy trial, and (4) the prejudice to the defendant caused by the delay." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "The Court weigh[s] these factors according to the unique circumstances of each case in light of the [s]tate and the defendant's conduct and the harm to the defendant from the delay." Id. (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "In reviewing a district court's ruling on a speedy trial violation claim, we defer to the court's findings of fact, and we weigh and balance the Barker factors de novo." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A. Length of Delay

         {6} "The first factor . . . has a dual function: it acts as a triggering mechanism for considering the four Barker factors if the delay crosses the threshold of being 'presumptively prejudicial, ' and it is an independent factor to consider in evaluating whether a speedy trial violation has occurred." State v. Serros, 2016-NMSC-008, ¶ 22, 366 P.3d 1121. "We have established benchmarks for presumptively prejudicial delay according to the complexity of a case: one year for a simple case, 15 months for a case of intermediate complexity, and 18 months for a complex case." Id.

         {7} The district court found that Franklin's case is complex. This determination is not challenged on appeal and we defer to that finding. See State v. Thomas, 2016-NMSC-024, ¶ 11, 376 P.3d 184 (observing that appellate courts defer to the trial court's finding regarding the complexity of any given case, as long as that finding is supported by substantial evidence). We must next determine the length of the delay.

         {8} "The right to a speedy trial is implicated when the putative defendant becomes an 'accused.'" Salandre v. State, 1991-NMSC-016, ¶ 13, 111 N.M. 422, 806 P.2d 562, holding modified on other grounds by State v. Garza, 2009-NMSC-038, ¶ 22, 146 N.M. 499, 212 P.3d 387. A putative defendant becomes an "accused" upon the "filing of a formal indictment or information or arrest and holding to answer." State v. Urban, 2004-NMSC-007, ¶ 12, 135 N.M. 279, 87 P.3d 1061 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). This is because "indictment, or the actual restraints of arrest and holding for charges, implicates the speedy trial guarantee." Salandre, 1991-NMSC-016, ¶ 14 (emphasis and footnote omitted).

         {9} The warrant to arrest Franklin for killing Enriquez was served on Franklin on December 3, 2012. At that time, Franklin was already incarcerated and serving a sentence on other criminal matters. Thus, Franklin's liberty was not additionally restricted when he received the arrest warrant and any adverse consequences he experienced due to incarceration did not arise as a consequence of the arrest warrant. Accordingly, we measure the length of delay in Franklin's case not from the date the arrest warrant was served but from the date he was indicted: December 17, 2012. See State v. Haar, 1990-NMCA-076, ¶ 18, 110 N.M. 517, 797 P.2d 306 (holding that the defendant's speedy trial right attached upon the filing of the indictment and not upon his arrest for other charges). Franklin agrees that the length of delay should be measured from the date of indictment.

         {10} Franklin's trial commenced on August 10, 2015. The delay from indictment to trial is two years, seven months, and twenty-four days, or roughly thirty-two months. This delay stretched fourteen months beyond the eighteen-month benchmark for complex cases ...


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