The prosecutor’s letter to the police contains 26 bullet points – everything from the use of an unconstitutional photo constellation to the investigators’ failure to search for evidence on four confiscated cell phones.
The result: a failed murder case in the high profile murder of a Santa Fe teenager whom police repeatedly described as a member of a Southside gang last year. The charges against the youth police charged with shooting have now been dropped.
Assistant District Attorney Tony Long addressed the letter Tuesday to several senior Santa Fe police officers, including Assistant Chiefs Ben Valdez and Paul Joye.
SFR obtained a copy of the damning, two-page letter through a request to the Attorney General’s office under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.
18-year-old Mario Guizar-Anchondo is accused of killing 17-year-old Ivan Perez in July 2020. Guizar-Anchondo was then 17 years old and was initially charged as an adult by the then public prosecutor Marco Serna.
On Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office dismissed the case unscathed, meaning it can be re-filed, and referred it back to SFPD.
In an interview, DA Mary Carmack-Altwies told SFR that the police investigation was “inadequate and incomplete”.
She adds that before Long mailed the letter this week, her office had been trying for some time to get SFPD to fix the flaws in the investigation.
Joye tells SFR that on Aug. 30, the agency provided 15 of the 26 items on the prosecutor’s list, although he couldn’t say which ones.
In response to Joye’s comment, Carmack-Altwies tells SFR that two of her employees went to the police on August 30 and obtained some of the items listed in the letter, but not the most important ones for the case. She did not explain why these items were listed in Tuesday’s correspondence.
But the delivery came too late, according to Carmack-Altwies – just a month before the scheduled trial date and a year after the murder.
The list of problems and missing evidence in the letter includes: certified search warrants, voluntary testimony, evidence collection documents, crime scene logs, and photos and reports from the medical investigator’s office, and missing data downloads or analysis from four cell phones that were collected.
The department also conducted a “legally and constitutionally unlawful ‘photograph’ of the defendant”, which failed to adhere to the necessary legal procedures that must be followed for prosecutors to use a defendant’s identification in court, according to the letter.
Because these procedures were not followed, Long writes, the court suppressed the identification of Guizar-Anchondo – a fatal blow to the case.
“As a result of the court’s suppression of identification of the accused, the uncooperative friends of Ivan Perez who witnessed his murder, and the pending investigation and follow-up investigation, this case is in no way, shape, or form ready for trial for next month . ”Lange wrote.
Guizar-Anchondo is due to be tried in October. He is no longer in custody.
“That doesn’t mean that at some point we will no longer burden him,” says Carmack-Altwies. “It just means that the investigation is still ongoing at this point and the case cannot be brought to justice.”
Carmack-Altwies says SFPD stayed mum when their prosecutors raised concerns about the quality of the investigation.
She adds that pandemic delays in courts that have challenged prosecutors and defense lawyers over the past year and a half have also slowed their law enforcement deadlines.
Also this week, the trial of 18-year-old Esteven Montoya, who is accused of fatally shooting basketball star Fedonta “JB” White at Santa Fe High in August 2020, a few weeks after Perez’s death, ended in May postponed the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
Montoya was part of a group called the Southside Goons, which Perez was a part of. The two were close friends. Police and prosecutors claim the group is a gang, but members say this is far from the truth, telling SFR last year that they are friends who grew up along Airport Road and made music together.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a clarification from DA Mary Carmack-Altwies on documents the police made available on August 30th.