Former Santa Fe attorney Carlos Fierro, who was convicted of DWI vehicular homicide in 2009 and released from prison in August, claims in a request for a new trial that the foreman of the jury that convicted him should have been excused.
A petition filed this week by Fierro’s attorney, Ray Twohig of Albuquerque, claims the foreman didn’t disclose on a questionnaire or during pre-trial jury selection that he had a pending criminal case of his own.
The petition claims Fierro’s attorneys should have excused the foreman “out of concern he [the foreman] would rule against Mr. Fierro in order to curry favor in his own pending criminal case.”
Twohig’s petition states that the jury foreman “guided the jury to a verdict” and that the foreman’s own criminal charges were later dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe. The petition also states that the jury foreman’s former girlfriend “had a sister who was or had recently been a sister-in-law” to a jury consultant hired by the state.
“The failure to discover and explore this relationship, and to seek to exclude that juror from the jury, had a major impact on the verdict in the case,” the petition states.
State District Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer on Tuesday granted the state Attorney General’s Office 90 days to file a response to Twohig’s petition. The judge said she then would decide whether to schedule a hearing at which Twohig could present evidence.
Fierro, 39, was convicted by a Santa Fe jury of driving his BMW drunk and striking and killing 49-year-old William Tenorio as he crossed Guadalupe Street on foot at about 2 a.m. in November 2008. Fierro drove away from the scene and was stopped and arrested by police a short time later in downtown Santa Fe.
Fierro’s blood alcohol content later was measured at 0.21, more than two and a half times the legal driving limit. Evidence showed he had spent the evening drinking in bars with Alfred Lovato, a state police officer who was a member of then-Gov. Bill Richardson’s security team and was a passenger in Fierro’s car when it hit the pedestrian.
Fierro was released after 3 1/2 years in prison, despite his six-year sentence, because of credit for time served before his sentencing and good-time credit earned while in prison. He now is on probation and living in California.
District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco wouldn’t comment on the case Tuesday. Attorney General’s Office spokesman Phil Sisneros also refused to comment, stating that “The Attorney General’s Office has a long-standing policy of not discussing ongoing litigation.”
In 2011, Fierro filed a petition seeking dismissal of his convictions and a new trial on the grounds that his defense attorneys — Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence — did not to provide him with effective representation.
Twohig’s petition states that Fierro’s defense attorneys didn’t effectively argue what Fierro still asserts “was an accident and was not a result of his criminal act.” The petition also states that Fierro was “coerced” into taking a plea deal with the state when he pleaded no contest to leaving the scene of an accident months after his conviction.
“The coercion by his own attorneys in this case included provision of improper and inaccurate information to [Fierro], upon which he based his decision to enter the plea agreement,” the petition states.
Bowles told reporters after Fierro’s trial that the trial was “unfair” because of the publicity surrounding the case in Santa Fe and that he intended to appeal the conviction. In a phone interview Tuesday, Bowles said he never filed the appeal because of the “favorable” plea deal the state offered Fierro on the charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
In response to Fierro’s claim that he was not represented effectively, Bowles said: “We represented him to the utmost of our ability. But, unfortunately, the nature of this profession is that people are going to be upset if things don’t go their way.”
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler.