Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — A district court judge on Monday rejected one last effort to dismiss the case against a man accused of attempted second-degree murder, clearing the way for his trial to begin.
The jury selection process at Anthony Gallegos’ trial was scheduled to get under way on Monday, exactly one year after he allegedly stabbed two men during an altercation in the 800 block of 10th Street.
But 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift began the day by ruling on a series of final pre-trial motions from Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy and Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins.
The public defender’s office sought to dismiss the twice-continued trial after Loy informed the court that Gallegos and one of his alleged victims may have previously been in jail at the same time.
Hopkins alleged that the district attorney’s office failed to disclose any records or discovery materials regarding the new information. For that reason, dismissal would be the only appropriate sanction the court could impose on the prosecution, she said.
According to Loy, the information only came to light during a witness preparation interview on Sunday. He didn’t believe that the revelation was news to the defense, so he didn’t share it with Hopkins’ office, he said.
Judge Swift ultimately found that the prosecution didn’t do anything wrong, noting that Loy had no intention of hiding the information from anyone.
However, she ordered the district attorney’s office to turn over any related documentation by the end of the day on Monday.
On two other key issues, though, the judge sided with the defense.
She ruled that the prosecution cannot discuss the fact that Gallegos was released from jail on the morning he allegedly stabbed Michael Sanchez and Jeremy Montoya. Nor can Loy’s office refer to the 21-year-old defendant’s probationary status at the time of the alleged incident, she ruled.
The judge said she couldn’t see how either fact is relevant to the case at hand, and she voiced concerns that any references to his status that day would have a highly prejudicial effect on the jury.
However, she ruled the prosecution will be allowed to introduce evidence and testimony alleging that Gallegos was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
“It’s just part of the entire situation, and that information could well be necessary for the jury to understand the context of what is going on,” she said.
As for any references to the alleged victims in the case, Judge Swift said she expects that Loy will mention them by their actual names as much as possible.
She noted that a nervous prosecutor in an unrelated case accidentally referred to an alleged victim as a “victim.”
Hopkins said the slip-up in that case led the court to declare a mistrial, and she said the use of the term “alleged victims” in Gallegos’ case could open the door for similar errors to be made.
She also suggested that the term would lead jurors to believe that Sanchez and Montoya are more credible than Gallegos is. Yet the question of who was a victim that day is precisely the one that jurors will be asked to answer, Hopkins said.
She suggested that the court could order Loy to refer to both men by their actual names. Otherwise, Sanchez and Montoya should be known as “complaining witnesses,” Hopkins said.
However, Loy argued that the word “complaining” would be prejudicial to the prosecution, noting that it has negative connotations in society.
The judge ultimately found the use of the term “alleged victims” is appropriate in this case. But she advised Loy to keep those references to a minimum.
Gallegos’ trial could begin today, depending on how much time the jury selection process takes.
In addition to the main charge of attempted second-degree murder, he stands accused of two counts of first-degree assault, as well as criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.
Under the law, he is presumed to be innocent unless jurors determine that the prosecution proved its case against him beyond a reasonable doubt.