QCS Managing Editor
The trial of Tony Day, 14, accused of killing his adoptive mother and sister last November, is likely to be delayed from its current Oct. 21 date due to the trial schedule of defense attorney Jeffrey Buckels and time required to process records and evidence in the case.
At a progress report hearing Tuesday morning, Buckels, Kirk Chavez, deputy 10th District Attorney, and Judge Albert Mitchell seemed to be in agreement that a delay will be needed. Mitchell, however, asked for further conferences among the three to set a date that will stand firm, and reminded the attorneys state statutes set limits on how long a juvenile can be held before trial.
Day has been held in the county juvenile detention facility since the slayings occurred.
Two other issues came up during the hearing — the order of trial proceedings and victim’s rights issues.
Chavez, Buckels and Mitchell seemed to agree that it would be advisable to hold a trial on whether Day is likely to respond well to behavioral health treatment before the trial of the case for murder charges occurs. This would be contrary to New Mexico court procedure that requires a trial of criminal charges before an “amenability to treatment” trial is held, Mitchell said.
New Mexico, Chavez said, is one of only two states in the nation that requires a trial on the charges before a proceeding on amenability.
Holding the amenability hearing first, Chavez explained, would increase the likelihood of a plea that would avoid a trial on the charges, especially in a case like Day’s that involves a juvenile defendant.
The outcome an amenability trial would determine whether Day would be sentenced as an adult or under juvenile sanctions. A juvenile determined to be amenable to treatment would likely receive a far less severe sentence under juvenile sanctions after being convicted of an adult crime.
That might persuade the defendant to plead guilty, Chavez said.
If the amenability proceeding cannot occur until after the trial on the charges, he said, the range of available sentences would be too wide — from a few years to, in this case, two consecutive life sentences — to encourage a plea.
On the victim’s rights issues, Chavez said the family of the victims seeks to become involved in the prosecution of the case. He said family members were surprised to learn about juvenile sanctions, and that seems to be changing their attitude toward whether Day should enter a guilty plea.
Mitchell suggested that the family may need its own attorney.
Buckels said there are limits on the kind of issues that a victim’s family can weigh in on.