FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF BERNALILLO COUNTY Brett R.
Loveless, District Judge
Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Scott Wisniewski,
Assistant Public Defender Albuquerque, NM for Appellant
H. Balderas, Attorney General Martha Anne Kelly, Assistant
Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellee
CHARLES W. DANIELS, JUSTICE
Defendant Elexus Groves has been indicted on two counts of
first-degree murder and other serious felony offenses. In
this interlocutory appeal she challenges a district court
order of pretrial detention that was based on two independent
and alternative detention grounds contained in Article II,
Section 13 of the New Mexico Constitution.
The first ground was that Defendant was detainable under the
provision that has been part of our Constitution since we
became a state, providing an exception to the general right
to pretrial release for defendants charged with capital
The second ground was based on the new detention authority
added by New Mexico voters in the November 2016 general
election, allowing denial of pretrial release of a felony
defendant if the prosecuting authority requests a hearing and
proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release
conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other
person or the community.
We hold that the district court's detention order was
lawfully based on the new constitutional authority for
pretrial detention of dangerous defendants, and we affirm it
on that ground. As a result, there is no need to address in
this opinion the issues Defendant raises relating to the
alternative ground for the district court's action based
on the old capital-offense exception, a matter that we have
addressed separately in State v. Ameer,
S-1-SC-36395. See N.M. Sup. Ct. order (May 8, 2017).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday, January 18, 2017, a man and a
woman stole a van in Albuquerque. The two attempted to flee
pursuing police officers, driving recklessly at extremely
high speeds through residential city streets. Defendant,
shown to be the apparent driver of the stolen van by physical
evidence and her postarrest statements to police, crashed it
into another car at an intersection, killing a teenage girl,
fatally injuring the girl's mother, and breaking the leg
of the girl's three-year-old brother. As logged by the
van's GPS data, a moment before the crash the van was
traveling at seventy-eight miles per hour in a
thirty-five-mile-per-hour residential zone, and on impact it
was traveling at sixty-eight miles per hour.
After the fatal crash, the offenders jumped out of the stolen
van and continued their flight from the police. They ran
through adjacent neighborhoods, climbing backyard fences and
attempting to distract residents so they could steal another
vehicle. After they succeeded in stealing another car, they
escaped the pursuing officers but left behind a number of
clues that resulted in Defendant's identification and her
arrest two days later.
Among the clues, officers found a cell phone in the back yard
of one witness who had called police to report that two
unknown people had jumped over his fence. Investigation of
that cell phone revealed a Facebook account belonging to
coparticipant Paul Garcia and a call record showing contact
between Garcia and Defendant.
Near the place where the second vehicle had been stolen,
officers discovered a jacket containing a letter addressed to
Defendant from an attorney offering to represent her in
connection with her pending criminal charges.
Officers obtained security video footage from a business
along the offenders' escape route that recorded two
persons appearing to be Defendant and Garcia crossing a
parking lot. In the video, the person identified as Garcia
was walking with only one shoe, which appeared to match a
shoe found at the wrecked van.
Following her arrest, Defendant initially appeared in
metropolitan court, which set release conditions including
the requirement that she post a $100, 000 secured bond. The
State filed a motion in district court to deny
Defendant's release pending trial under the new
provisions of Article II, Section 13 of the New Mexico
Constitution, arguing that no conditions of release a court
could impose would protect the safety of others. The case was
promptly transferred to the district court, which has
exclusive pretrial detention ...