According to TV reports, the court declined to rule on Astorga's constitutional challenges to the death penalty, which included research from the Capital Jury Project that pointed out prejudicial flaws in the jury system.
During the May 12 oral arguments, the Supreme Court seemed especially interested in the New Mexico Legislature's bill to repeal the death penalty, HB 285, signed into law during the 2009 session. The bill, which replaced the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole, did not include cases in which the murders were committed before July 7, 2009.
The defense, delivered by public defender Jeff Buckels, argued that the Legislature and governor's decision should be followed by a judicial order to eliminate the death penalty for the remaining cases not covered by the new law.
In its discussion in open court, however, the justices indicated they believed the legislature purposefully drafted the law as to exclude Astorga and the two men currently on death row, Tim Allen and Robert Fry.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Bernalillo, who sponsored the bill maintains that was not the Legislature's intent. Simply put, Legislature cannot make retroactive laws, she tells SFR.
"We weren't making a statement about that case or any other case," Chasey says. She was on her way to a Conservation Voters New Mexico dinner when KOB broke the news (see video after the jump).
The legislator adds that she personally found the Capital Jury Project's findings "pretty powerful" when they were presented in district court. The prosecution argued before the Supreme Court that findings were irrelevant because the New Mexico was not part of the sample; Chasey says this argument was "unpersuasive."
The decision was made in the form of mandate, quashing the Astorga's application for an interlocutory appeal. Vids after the jump.