Las Cruces—On May 20, 2015, the Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico, filed an opinion in the case of State of New Mexico v. Robert J. Flores (see attachment). In that opinion, the high court reversed the 2013 conviction of Mr. Flores in which he was found guilty of reckless child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence. The Court ordered that the case be dismissed. Mr. Flores cannot be retried.
The Court found that the District Attorney’s Office from 2007-2012 was negligent in “unreasonably delaying” a serious child abuse trial for more than five years. In December 2007, Mr. Flores was arrested in connection with the tragic suffocation death of his 4-month-old daughter, Kalynne Flores. About 10:30 p.m., Mr. Flores decided to go to the store leaving Kalynne in a laundry basket full of clothes in a closet. Mr. Flores returned home 45 minutes later, but did not check on Kalynne until a few hours later, at which time he found the baby dead. The medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was due to asphyxia.
Prosecuting attorneys, Jacinto Palomino and Roxeanne Esquibel, had less than a month to prepare and try the case. None of the attorneys from the previous administration who were associated with the case assisted in the prosecution. The trial, which took place during the first month of District Attorney Mark D ‘Antonio’s administration, was conducted from January 29-February 7, 2013. The jury deliberated for only four hours before returning a guilty verdict against Mr. Flores. On April, 23, 2013, Flores was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 18 years.
Mr. D’Antonio stated, “The case involving the infant Kalynne was an outstanding effort on the part of law enforcement and my prosecutors. I commend them for obtaining an important conviction in such a short time under adverse conditions. That just goes to show what professional and committed prosecutors can do. The victim’s family was owed justice and resolution after five years of suffering uncertainty following the loss of Kalynne. Our trial conviction gave them some much needed satisfaction. However, today, we share the extreme disappointment with the family regarding this recent appellate decision and devastating consequences we may all have to live with.”
Mr. D’Antonio first became aware of the case upon taking office in January 2013. At that time, the case was already over five years old and had not yet been brought to trial. Within 5 weeks, Mr. D’Antonio’s litigation team was able to complete the prosecution and convict the defendant. However, the Court of Appeals, on review, found that the extraordinary long delay between the date of arrest and trial was due to the former prosecutions’ “negligence and administrative burdens.” District Attorney D’Antonio further stated, “I am very concerned that a man convicted in a court of law of child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence is free because of what the appellate court is identifying as negligent prosecution by the former administration especially in light of the fact that my attorneys fought so valiantly to secure a conviction. Although, I don’t agree with the very sad results as announced by the appellate court, it is a universal truth that justice delayed is justice denied. However, in a great number of cases, the defendant bears equal or greater blame in slowing down the wheels of justice.”
“In addition, the Court also shares the blame of trial delays due to a shortage of judges and over crowded court dockets. Penalizing the victims for delays outside the prosecutor’s control is not in the best interest of justice. When I first took office, we were faced with many serious cases that were three to six years old. We have made it our priority to get those cases tried or pled. Not only are old cases more difficult to prosecute because of witness’ memories fading, law enforcement officers who are no longer available, and other factors, but as this recent case demonstrates, running afoul of speedy trial deadlines could lead to dismissal or overturned convictions. Also, cases that languish for long periods without resolution can lead to individuals being incarcerated for longer than necessary resulting in multi-million dollar judgments against our county. This is really about fairness and accountability because justice matters” said D’Antonio.
Mr. D’Antonio has contacted the Attorney General’s Office and urged him to appeal the decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court.