Brittany Garcia, Mark Hice, Anton Martinez and Axel Zamarron will have to wait until 2020 to see if Rio Arriba County jurors will find them guilty of the October 2018 murder of Cameron Martinez, no relation. The defendants will also be facing their trials separately after prosecution and defense agreed to sever the defendants.
First Judicial District Court Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne reset the calendars for the cases and granted prosecution motions for continuances in each case during an hourslong motion hearing that addressed several motions before the court.
Prosecutors filed a motion Aug. 20 to amend Mark Hice’s grand jury indictment, and argued before the court Sept. 6 that the grand jury had possibly made a mistake when it did not indict Hice for both willful and deliberate murder and depraved mind murder.
First degree murder charges are either willful and deliberate, meaning the murder was planned and intentional, or with a depraved mind, meaning that the murderer acting with disregard for life knowing that their actions were going to result in someone’s death.
Deputy District Attorney Todd Bullion argued on behalf of the state that the grand jurors were likely confused by the certificate of finding probable cause.
Bullion said the certificate suggested to him that the jurors had been under the instruction or assumed that they had to choose between willful and deliberate or depraved mind murder.
Hice’s attorney Sheri Raphaelson argued that for prosecutors to allege that some sort of error had occurred that warranted the alteration of a true bill from a grand jury was essentially undermining the very purpose grand jury system.
“There is absolutely no evidence, zero, none, that says it was an error (for the grand jury not to indict Hice with depraved mind murder),” Raphaelson said.
Raphaelson said the prosecution had determined based on the evidence that there was not enough to convict Hice of willful and deliberate murder, so prosecutors wanted to add the depraved mind murder charge to ensure they would still get a conviction.
Bullion disputed that claim and argued that charges could be amended under court rules up until trial begins.
Raphaelson said the addition of the new charge would require her to revisit and reinterview over 50 of the witnesses in the trial, with additional questions to defend Hice against the new charge. She said adding the charge was unfair to her client.
Despite her protests, Sanchez-Gagne ruled that the indictment would be amended and Hice now faces an additional charge of depraved mind murder.
Sanchez-Gagne also granted a state’s motion to continue Hice’s trial, so that additional evidence could be processed.
Hice will be the second of the four defendants to go to trial in March 2020.
Brittany Garcia’s attorneys Mark Ernst and Nicholas Hart filed a motion for a change of venue and argued to the court that Garcia would not be able to find an impartial jury in Rio Arriba County, largely due to the media coverage of the case.
Hart told the court that the Albuquerque Journal had 51 different mentions of Cameron Martinez, while the Santa Fe New Mexican mentioned Cameron Martinez 144 times.
Hart also told the court that the prominent political figures who had commented on the case warranted a change of venue. He highlighted quotes from District Attorney Marco Serna and Rio Arriba Magistrate Judge Joseph Madrid that appeared in previous Rio Grande SUN articles.
Prosecutors argued that Garcia would be able to find a fair and impartial jury within Rio Arriba County if there were additional steps taken during voir dire, or jury selection to ensure that jurors were impartial when they were selected for the jury.
“The state’s position is that the citizens of Rio Arriba County can be fair,” Bullion argued.
He said the case had received statewide media coverage so moving to another district for trial would not be a solution.
Hart argued that while the case did indeed get statewide media coverage, it was jurors in the area surrounding Española that would naturally pay the most attention to media coverage of the case.
Sanchez-Gagne ruled against the motion, which means Garcia will go to trial in Tierra Amarilla when her jury selection begins in February 2020.
Axel Zamarron will be the third defendant to go to trial in April 2020, and Anton Martinez will be the last to face a jury in May 2020.