What kind of legal ‘reasoning’ is this?
The incredible Kevin Ogden murder
Kevin Ogden shot and
murdered Farmington Police Community Service Officer Vicky Chavez
in cold blood, while she was on duty 9 July 1992. As a C.S.O., Mrs.
Chavez wore a police uniform, and drove a marked police car. Her
duty was to enforce the law, particularly property, and misdemeanor
cases. Her orders that day were to check on a vacant house owned
by Ogden’s mother. Before she got out of her police car,
Ogden shot and killed her with a shotgun.
D.A.’s Office charged Ogden with 1st Degree (Capital) Murder,
which requires proof of an “aggravating circumstance,”
in the murder. Under the capital murder statute, murdering a “peace
officer” while he is in the course of his duties is such
an aggravating circumstance.
After a pre-trial hearing, Onuska
ruled that Community Service Officers, because they are not fully
certified police officers, are not “peace officers,”
and therefore the murder of C.S.O. Chavez while she was going about
her police duties in police uniform, was not a factor that could
cause her killer to get the death penalty!
The D.A.’s Office and the New
Mexico Attorney General’s Office appealed this ruling. The
N.M. Supreme Court unanimously reversed Onuska. The
Supreme Court held that Community Service Officers have many of
the same duties as fully certified police, are in police uniform
while on duty, drive marked police cars, and are under police supervision,
and thus they are “peace officers,” who are entitled
to the same protection of the law that fully certified officers
enjoy. (See State v. Ogden, 118 N.M. 234; 880 P.2d 845).
Good district judges get reversed
from time-to-time, so the mere fact that Onuska was reversed is
not significant. What is disturbing is the lack of common sense
and legal reasoning in his application of the facts to the statute
at hand. That he could not figure out that C.S.O.’s-- who
do nothing but police work, are under police department discipline,
wear police uniforms and drive marked police cars--are “peace
officers,” is quite astounding. Did he really think the legislative
intent behind the capital murder statute was to provide special
protection for fully certified officers, but to heck with C.S.O.’s
who do the same work, and are just as exposed to the dangerous criminal
element? The fact that not a single member of the very liberal N.M.
Supreme Court agreed with him on this issue is further proof how
far out his opinion is.
The court also noted that Onuska denied
another of Ogden’s motions, “but the basis of its
(i.e. Onuska’s) decision is not clear from the court’s
record. We therefore remand this matter to the district court so
that it may revise it’s order or conduct further proceedings
In other words, Onuska’s order
was so poorly written the Supreme Court couldn’t figure out
why he made the decision he made. They sent the case back for Onuska
to explain himselfouch!
Don’t think that Onuska's
foolish decision and poor writing and reasoning ability are without
costs. The Ogden case was delayed while his decision was appealed,
which meant Mrs. Chavez’s family and loved ones had that
much longer to wait for justice in her case. The hearing had to
be transcribed, and attorneys had to brief and argue the case. The
Supreme Court had to spend time addressing this case, while other
We faxed and mailed Onuska a letter
on Sept. 5, asking him to explain his reasoning in this case, and
asking if he believes he is right or if he now accepts the Supreme
Court’s view of the law. So far we have not received a reply
(see "Questions for