Court Upholds Sentence For Man Accused In Officer's Death, Incoming Governor To Appoint Regents

Dec 29, 2018

Court Upholds Sentence For Man Accused In Officer's Death

The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence for a man convicted of killing a suburban Albuquerque police officer.

In 2016, Andrew Romero was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, plus 60 years, following a jury trial in Los Lunas. He was convicted of shooting and killing Rio Rancho Officer Gregg Nigel Benner in 2015.

Romero's attorney argued on an appeal before the state's high court that the jury was tainted during his trial because four jurors indicated they had been exposed to media coverage resulting from the shooting. 

The defense argued that that none of the 12 jurors should have been exposed to media headlines in the case.

Legal Stalemate Clouds Fate Of New Mexico Racino License

New Mexico horse racing regulators have reluctantly decided for a third time to put off a vote on issuing the state's sixth and final license for a new racetrack and casino operation.

Racing Commission Chairman Ray Willis said the state attorney general's office warned that if the commission moved ahead with issuing the license, the office would not be obligated to defend the commissioners if a legal fight ensued.

At issue is a petition filed in district court by one of the companies vying for the license. The company is seeking a temporary injunction, saying the commission hasn't done enough to study the issue.

There had been some pressure to make a decision before the end of the year as the makeup of the commission could change in 2019 with a new governor in place.

Incoming New Mexico Governor Looks To Appoint Regents

New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has more than a dozen university regent positions to fill and now she has a process for how she plans to get it done.

The Democrat on Friday announced that three advisory committees are interviewing prospective candidates and vetting the background of each. The committees then will offer recommendations to the incoming governor, who takes office Jan. 1.

The University of New Mexico, Northern New Mexico College, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico State University and Western New Mexico University all have spots that will need to be filled.

Critics say the state's system for appointing regents enables the governor to pack the universities' governing boards with donors and friends.

The confirmation process in the Democrat-controlled Senate also has been politicized over the years.

New Mexico Reports Highest Graduation Rate In 2018

New Mexico education officials say the rate of high school students who are earning diplomas is the highest it has ever been.

Gov. Susana Martinez, who is wrapping up her second and final term, announced Friday that the 2018 class marked the highest graduation rate in the state's history at 73 percent.

While that's still below the national average, state officials say this year's numbers mark a 10 percent increase since 2011.

Martinez said New Mexico students have made improvements even as the state has raised academic standards and graduation requirements. The Republican says they're better prepared to enter the workforce and college.

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and fellow Democratic lawmakers have vowed to reform the state's education system in 2019.

Officials say final and complete graduation rate data will be published in February.

Distribution Company To Invest $16.5M In New Mexico

A regional distribution company has plans to invest another $16.5 million to expand its operations in southern New Mexico.

Gov. Susana Martinez's office announced Friday that Valley Cold Storage and Transportation plans to increase its presence in the border community of Santa Teresa and will add 10 jobs.

The expansion is being supported by up to $150,000 in local economic development funds.

State Economic Development Secretary Matt Geisel called Valley Cold Storage a homegrown success story. The company serves southern New Mexico, West Texas and northern Mexico.

Since 2011, the governor's office says New Mexico has invested nearly $130 million in improvements in Santa Teresa to attract businesses to the bustling area. That has included roadway reconstruction, water infrastructure and a port of entry visitor center.

Winner Of "The Voice" To Perform At New Mexico Inauguration

Chevel Shepherd, the winner of NBC's "The Voice," is scheduled to perform next week at the inauguration of New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Lujan Grisham's office says Shepherd will perform "God Bless America" at the inaugural ceremony along with other songs at the two inaugural balls on Jan. 1.

The Democratic politician says Shepherd, a 16-year-old from Farmington, has made New Mexicans proud with her remarkable talent.

Shepherd was declared the winner of "The Voice" earlier this month after weeks of competition. Singer Kelly Clarkson was her coach.

Shepherd has said she also plans to schedule a concert in January in her hometown.

The Latest: 24-Mile Stretch Of I-40 Closed In New Mexico

A 24-mile (39-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 40 in central New Mexico is closed to traffic in both directions because of blizzard conditions.

According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation's road-conditions website, the closure Friday is between Moriarity and Clines Corner.

Most of New Mexico is under a winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service due to heavy snow expected to continue through Saturday morning.