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State v. Martinez

Supreme Court of New Mexico

April 23, 2018

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
ISAAC MARTINEZ, Defendant-Appellee, STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
CARLA CASIAS, Defendant-Appellee.

          CERTIFICATION FROM THE NEW MEXICO COURT OF APPEALS John M. Paternoster, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellant Coberly & Martinez, LLLP Todd A. Coberly Santa Fe, NM for Appellees

          The Law Office of Ryan J. Villa Ryan J. Villa Albuquerque, NM for Amicus Curiae New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association


          CHARLES W. DANIELS, Justice

         {1} In this case we address whether a court may dismiss an indictment because evidence considered by the grand jury had been developed through use of unlawful subpoenas. We confirm almost a century of judicial precedents in New Mexico and hold that, absent statutory authorization, a court may not overturn an otherwise lawful grand jury indictment because of trial inadmissibility or improprieties in the procurement of evidence that was considered by the grand jury.

         I. BACKGROUND

         {2} Defendants Isaac Martinez and Carla Casias were each indicted on one count of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

         {3} Early in the investigation of the robbery, a police detective enlisted the help of the deputy district attorney in the Eighth Judicial District, who prepared and authorized service of what purported to be judicial subpoenas duces tecum (the subpoenas) to obtain records of calls and text messages of suspects from their cellular telephone providers.

         {4} These purported subpoenas represented on their face that they were issued in the name of the Eighth Judicial District Court, although at the time of their preparation and service there was no pending prosecution, court action, or grand jury proceeding. Over signature of the deputy district attorney, some of these purported subpoenas ordered production of "Call Detail Records, and Text Message Detail" for the specified phones, all ordered subscriber information, and all ordered production to the Taos Police Department with the warning, "IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY WITH THIS SUBPOENA, you may be held in contempt of court and punished by fine or imprisonment." These early subpoenas were filed with the district court in a miscellaneous court docket, rather than a criminal or grand jury docket, but they were styled as "State of New Mexico, Plaintiff, vs. John Doe, Defendant."

         {¶5} The detective used information gained from the early subpoenas to obtain search warrants for additional evidence. For example, the original subpoenas revealed the phone numbers Defendants called and texted around the time of the crime as well as text message detail for some subpoenas, but the judicially issued warrants obtained both the content of text messages for the phone of Defendant Casias and records that would help establish geographical location information for the phone of Defendant Martinez at the time of the crime. The district court eventually issued a warrant for the arrest of Defendant Martinez that relied entirely on facts learned through use of the subpoenas.

         {6} After this sequence of events and through use of information developed as a result of the subpoenas, a grand jury indicted Defendants for the armed robbery. On the day after the indictment, the district court issued a warrant for the arrest of Defendant Casias, and the State joined Defendants' cases. After two months of pretrial proceedings, Defendants moved to quash the indictment or alternatively to suppress all evidence obtained through the use of the contested subpoenas. The Eighth Judicial District Court granted the motion and quashed the indictment. The court reasoned that the preindictment subpoenas were unlawful and that by presenting the grand jury with evidence obtained through their use the deputy district attorney had tainted the grand jury proceedings.

         {¶7} The State appealed the dismissal to the Court of Appeals, which certified the issue to us for resolution, citing a conflict between (1) our precedents holding that an indictment duly returned into court and regular on its face cannot be challenged with respect to the kind and degree of evidence considered by the grand jury and (2) the broad wording of a recent amendment to our Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 5-302A NMRA, providing in pertinent part that "the grand jury proceedings, the indictment, and the lawfulness, competency, and relevancy of the evidence shall be reviewable by the district court."

         {8} In its certification, the Court of Appeals noted that application of Rule 5-302A "appears to invite a level of intrusion into the grand jury process that will be altogether new in New Mexico, invite litigation that has historically been limited to circumstances of evidence insufficiency and prosecutorial bad faith, and bears the capacity to undermine the independence of the grand jury." But the Court of Appeals also expressed concern that reversing the district court would require it to disregard the wording of Rule 5-302A and encroach on the Supreme Court's exclusive authority to exercise superintending control over the rules of procedure in our courts. We accepted certification and set this matter for full briefing and argument.


         A. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

         {9} NMSA 1978, Section 34-5-14(C) (1972), provides jurisdiction in this Court over matters certified to us by the Court of Appeals if "the matter involves: (1) a significant question of law under the constitution of New Mexico or the United States; or (2) an issue of substantial public interest that should be determined by the supreme court."

         {10} This case meets both criteria. First, the grand jury is a constitutional institution, see N.M. Const. art. II, ยง 14, and as the following discussion will show, the integrity and independence of the grand jury have been vigorously protected by both the legislative and judicial branches in statutes and case law. Consequently, a question about when grand jury indictments may be overturned is legally significant. Second, because the grand jury represents an important safeguard for individuals against unfounded criminal charges, its independence and functioning are matters of substantial public interest. A significant additional ...

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