SANTA FE – New Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that some criminal defendants – including those convicted of child abuse charges – are entitled to release pending appeal if certain legal requirements are met.
The ruling was prompted by deliberations over the incarceration of two women as they awaited an appeal on charges of reckless child abuse linked deadly events in which two young children were left in a hot car outside a Portales day care center.
Convictions of reckless child abuse ultimately were upheld against defendants and day care center owners Mary and Sandi Taylor.
The Supreme Court ordered the women released pending appeal last year before the Court of Appeals upheld their convictions.
“Since before statehood, New Mexico has entitled some post-conviction defendants to release pending appeal,” Justice Shannon Bacon noted in her opinion.
The new ruling outlines requirements for courts as they consider requests for release from prison pending appeal.
Releases can’t happen unless a judge first finds the defendant is unlikely to flee and that the appeal is not a stalling tactic, involves substantive questions of law or facts and could reverse the defendant’s incarceration entirely.
Defendants are not eligible for release pending appeal of convictions for the specified violent crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping.
Prosecutors say the Taylors left Maliyah Jones and Aubriauna Loya, both under the age of 2, in a vehicle in July 2017 for more than two hours with no air conditioning. Maliyah was declared dead at a Portales hospital. Aubriauna survived, but was seriously injured.
Mary Taylor was sentenced to 36 years in prison, while her daughter Sandi Taylor received a 30-year sentence.