Vehicular homicide trial begins Monday

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Melrose resident Harry L. Downey, 70, faces a five-day jury trial beginning Monday on vehicular homicide charges related to the July 31, 2001, death of Anna Beth Austin. Court documents filed by special prosecutor Thomas Rutledge in Curry County District Court also accuse Downey of being intoxicated and driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the death.
Austin had been the executive secretary to Curry County Manager Geneva Cooper and 9th Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter said that conflict of interest was among the reasons a special prosecutor from Carlsbad was appointed the handle the case.
On Friday, Judge Stephen Quinn refused to grant a request by Downey’s attorney filed on Jan. 16 to dismiss the charges for violation of his speedy trial rights. Attorney Hal Grieg had alleged the delay of more than two years had violated the state and federal constitutions and entered a number of newspaper articles into the court records as evidence of harm done to his client while awaiting trial.
The man accused in the July 4 death of Bobbie Lynn Sandoval had his bail conditions lowered Friday by District Judge Stephen Quinn.
Joe Martinez Jr., 33, faces charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily harm or death, resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, three counts of leaving the scene of an accident not resulting in great bodily harm or death, and criminal trespass. In court Friday afternoon, 9th Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter said Martinez is a flight risk due to the charges of fleeing the scene of multiple accidents and because he faces a possible 19-year sentence.
“He has substantial reason not to appear in court because of the substantial amount of time he’s looking at,” Carter said.
Quinn didn’t agree, and changed the bail to $50,000 cash or surety rather than $50,000 cash-only. That allows a bail bondsman to provide the funds.
Other new conditions on Martinez’ release include that he may not drive any vehicle, must use the anti-alcohol drug antabuse, must be present at all hearings, not to leave home except for work and meetings with his attorney, and no contact with any family members of the victim. Quinn also ordered that Martinez’ sister and mother be responsible for knowing his whereabouts.
As of Saturday afternoon, Martinez had not yet provided the needed bail money and was still in the county jail. Quinn scheduled his trial for May 6 and 7 with a pretrial conference on Feb. 5.
A Clovis man pleaded guilty Jan. 16 in Curry County District Court to five counts of auto burglary, one count of conspiracy to commit auto burglary, and one count of intimidation of a state’s witness. All the charges stem from a series of burglaries between Jan. 21 and June 2, 2003, at Hamilton Big Country Ford.
According to 9th Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter, Judge Joe Parker ordered that Timothy D. Davis, 23, undergo a 60-day evaluation at the New Mexico Department of Corrections and a sentencing hearing will be scheduled after that evaluation is complete. The six charges other than witness intimidation carry a maximum penalty of 18 months each in state prison; the witness intimidation charge carries a maximum penalty of three years.

Cops and Courts is compiled by CNJ staff writer Darrell Todd Maurina. He can be contacted at 763-6991 or: