![if gte IE 9]><![endif]><![if gte IE 9]><![endif]><![if gte IE 9]><![endif]>
Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Improperly admitted evidence is not grounds for a new trial unless the error is determined to be harmful. Evidentiary error is harmless if there is no reasonable probability the error affected the verdict. To determine the effect the error has on the verdict, the appellate court examines all the circumstances surrounding the error; examines the importance to the prosecution's case of the erroneously admitted evidence, and asks, among other things, whether the erroneously admitted evidence was cumulative or introduced new facts.
In 2002, Defendant David Gutierrez shot and killed a man. Defendant disclosed the murder to his wife and threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone about the murder. They divorced a short time later. Defendant remarried and also told his second wife about the murder. By the time of his 2017 murder trial, defendant was estranged from his second wife. At trial, defendant invoked the spousal communication privilege to preclude both women from testifying about his role in the killing. The jury found defendant guilty of willful, deliberate, and premeditated first-degree murder in violation of NMSA 1978, Section 30-2-1(A)(1) (1994). Defendant appealed.
The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions. According to the Court, although certain evidence was admitted at defendant's trial in violation of the privilege, the error was harmless. There was no reasonable probability that the erroneous admission of defendant's confidential, spousal communications to his first wife affected the verdict. The Court also held that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he and his second wife were married at the time the statements were made. Accordingly, defendant's statements to his second wife were not privileged communications under N.M. R. Ann. 11-505. The Court prospectively abolished the spousal communication privilege.