New Mexico v. Aguilar (Published Opinion)Annotate this Case
Defendant Lloyd Aguilar was tried on an indictment charging a number of offenses related to a carjacking in which the victim was beaten and shot to death. Several of the charged offenses had complex alternative theories of culpability, which likely resulted in the jury's confusion at issue in this case. After deliberation, the jury submitted executed verdict forms to the presiding trial judge. Noticing an apparent conflict in the verdicts, the trial judge, without the knowledge or participation of the parties, returned the forms to the jurors and directed them to read the instructions again and clarify their verdicts. The jury subsequently returned revised verdict forms, which the trial judge accepted in open court with the participation of the parties before the jury was discharged. On the following day, the trial judge notified the parties of his previously undisclosed ex parte contact with the jury. After a post-trial hearing on this issue, the trial court ordered a new trial on all charges on which the jury had returned final verdicts of guilty. Both the State and Defendant appealed the trial court’s order. The State argued the trial court’s grant of a new trial was made in error, and Defendant argued that while the grant of a new trial was appropriate, the principles of double jeopardy barred retrial on the counts of murder and armed robbery. The New Mexico Supreme Court held: (1) the trial court’s new trial order was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) retrial of the counts on which the jury ultimately returned guilty verdicts would not constitute double jeopardy.