New Mexico Supreme Court hears sentencing appeal for teen

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steve Gerecke was shot and killed when a group of teenagers went mobbing – stealing and terrorizing Albuquerque neighborhoods in 2015.

Police caught the teenagers involved and those responsible took plea deals. One of those teenagers, Christopher Rodriguez, is now saying he should have been sentenced as a juvenile, not an adult. He took that argument to the New Mexico Supreme Court Monday.

At 16, Rodriguez was sentenced as an adult, to around 12 years in prison. He wasn’t the one to pull the trigger, and he took a plea deal.

The question is – if there’s a plea deal, does Rodriguez have the option to appeal that he should have been sentenced as a juvenile?

Gerecke’s widow said Rodriguez knew what he was getting with that plea deal.

Rodriguez’s defense said, at the time, his mom was incarcerated and his dad died of a drug overdose and the court should be lenient as Rodriguez is amenable to juvenile rehabilitation. A judge didn’t buy it, and now the larger question about the ability to appeal will be answered by the state Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

Historically, the state Supreme Court did not stream these types of hearings, but due to the pandemic, they have wanted to make their work more accessible and now they have the technology to do so.

"This court is absolutely committed to being transparent and this is one of the things that we’re doing to do that," said Chief Justice Michael Vigil.