THURS: NM Capitol security say bring vaccine proof, not guns, + More

Nov 25, 2021

Visiting New Mexico's Capitol? Bring vaccine proof, not guns - By Cedar Attanasio Associated Press / Report For America

New Mexico's state legislative complex will be open to the public during upcoming legislative sessions, but only for those who provide proof of vaccination.

New rules will also prohibit performances, advocacy booths and tours at the state Capitol starting Dec. 6, when the Legislature meets for redistricting — setting new political boundaries based on 2020 census population counts.

The rules will also be in place during the regular legislative session that starts in January, limiting festivities in the Roundhouse — the state capitol building that includes the Legislature and the governor's office — but allowing the public to attend legislative hearings for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

"Given the high number of COVID-19 cases across the state and the strain this continues to put on state resources, it is incumbent on us to protect everyone in the Capitol complex while conducting the state's business," said Legislative Council Service director Raúl Burciaga, who oversees safety and operations at the state capital.

The vaccination requirement does not apply to lawmakers.

The Roundhouse has been open to the public for months, with a masking requirement but no vaccine requirement. It's popular for visitors thanks to four floors of local art and its round shape, unique among U.S. state capitals.

It was completely closed to the public during the last legislative session due to coronavirus concerns and fenced off with armed guards following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Legislative debates were broadcast online and public comment was given via Zoom.

The internet broadcasts will continue indefinitely.

Earlier this month, Democratic lawmakers banned weapons including firearms at the Capitol for the first time in its century-long history.

State Republican lawmakers have condemned the gun and in-person restrictions, including Tuesday's announcement.

"Last year they put up a fence blockade and called the National Guard, this year they've decided to ask for your medical records and take away your Second Amendment rights," said state House Republican Leader Jim Townsend, of Artesia, in southeastern New Mexico.

Before the pandemic, legislative sessions served as a festive platform for musical performances and dancing, and lobbying booths. That included advocacy groups handing out pens and massage stations where legislators and members of the public could get a free backrub, all of which are prohibited under the new rules.

New Mexico on Wednesday reported 1,409 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths linked to the disease statewide, according to the state Health Department. Just under 650 people were hospitalized in New Mexico with COVID-19.

Appeals court: Albuquerque ordinance violates 1st Amendment -Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court's ruling that an Albuquerque ordinance aimed at curbing panhandling in certain places wasn't sufficiently narrow to avoid violating First Amendment rights.

The city's ordinance prohibits pedestrians from congregating close to a highway entrance or ramp, occupying a median considered unsuitable for pedestrians or having an exchange of any kind with somebody in a vehicle in a traffic lane.

The ordinance was challenged in court on behalf of panhandlers, protesters and people who pass out items to the needy.

City officials argued that the restrictions are needed to address pedestrian safety concerns and were narrowly tailored to not restrict speech more than necessary.

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that the ordinance's provisions weren't sufficiently narrow to conform to the goal of reducing pedestrian-vehicle accidents.

Judge: DA office off case because cops recorded lawyer call -Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A New Mexico judge has ruled that a district attorney's office must be replaced as prosecutors in a homicide case in which Farmington police violated the defendant's constitutional rights by recording him talking with his attorney.

However, state District Judge David Pederson declined in his Nov. 5 ruling to also dismiss charges against John "Johnny" Marlowe Davidson in the 2020 fatal shooting of Justin Tapaha, saying that would be too harsh as it could deprive the victim's family of justice, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

Davidson is charged with second-degree murder and of shooting at or from a motor vehicle and causing great bodily harm.

In addition to ordering the San Juan County District Attorney's Office to hand off the prosecution of Davidson, Pederson granted defense motions to suppress illegal interview room recordings of Davidson's calls to his attorney and to suppress evidence from Davidson's cellphone and its contents.

Davidson's attorneys filed an Aug. 2 motion to have the case dismissed, arguing that the Farmington Police Department violated their client's constitutional rights by recording a privileged 30-minute conversation involving Davidson and the attorney he had at the time.

Pederson said Farmington police intentionally misled Davidson to believe he was not being recorded and that removing the DA's office was needed to provide Davidson a fair trial "free of tainted evidence."

"The illegal eavesdropping by FPD has tainted the entire process of prosecuting the case and in the modern era it is almost unfathomable that law enforcement would do it," Pederson wrote.

There's no way to determine what illegally gathered information Farmington police shared with the DA's office because information from the call is included in multiple court documents and police reports, Pederson wrote.

The Farmington Police Department said in a statement that providing justice for Tapaha and his family was a "paramount priority" for the agency but also said there was no intent to deprive Davidson of his constitutional rights. 

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said in a statement that the DA's office did not believe disqualifying the office was necessary but that litigating the judge's ruling would delay prosecuting the case. 

Defense attorney Steve Murphy said the judge's decision was appropriate. 

"It's just a shame to me that in this day and age, that anyone would ever think it would be appropriate to record anyone talking to their attorney," Murphy said. 

Pederson ordered the DA's office to designate another prosecutor by Dec. 6 or he would reconsider the dismissal of the homicide case. 

Sheriff: Boy dies after dog mauling at grandparents' home -Associated Press

Doa Ana County authorities say a 6-year-old boy died after being mauled by at least one dog at his grandparents' home. 

The Sheriff's Office said the boy died Monday shortly after being airlifted to a hospital from the Mesilla Park neighborhood where the mauling occurred outside Las Cruces. 

Sheriff Kim Stewart said the boy apparently got into a caged area containing multiple dogs and that at least one dog attacked him. It wasn't clear how the boy got into the caged area or what happened before the boy was attacked.

An investigation into the boy's death is ongoing and his name hasn’t been released.

Police arrest 29-year-old man in October road-rage shooting - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Albuquerque police have made an arrest in connection with an October shooting during an alleged road-rage incident in Old Town.

Police arrested 29-year-old Joshua Butler on Wednesday. They say witnesses saw a road-rage incident involving a minivan and Chevy pickup. They say the minivan stopped in the road, the driver got out and threw a piece of drywall that hit the pickup's driver's side door. Witnesses then heard a gunshot and the man fell to the ground. 

Nelson Gallegos was pronounced dead at the scene. KRQE reports he was shot in front of his grandson. 

The criminal complaint says detectives received a tip that Butler was driving the pickup. Authorities say they found four guns in his home and a white substance resembling sheetrock residue on a driver's side tire. 

The criminal complaint says Butler told detectives he wasn't driving in the area that day. He declined to comment to KRQE as he walked into the Albuquerque police station. 

It was not clear if he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.