New Mexico v. McDowellAnnotate this Case
Following a jury trial, Defendant John “Jack” McDowell was convicted of first- degree murder and tampering with evidence. During trial, the prosecutor elicited testimony from the arresting detective, without objection, that Defendant had invoked his right to counsel, and that by doing so the detective was precluded from questioning Defendant. Defendant argued on appeal that he was deprived of due process when the prosecutor elicited this testimony. The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed that the prosecutor erred. The Court reviewed the prosecutor’s error in this case for fundamental error because the error was not preserved, and concluded that the error was fundamental due to the prejudicial impact of such testimony and the lack of overwhelming evidence against Defendant. Accordingly, the convictions were vacated and the matter remanded back to the district court for a new trial.