Attorney general pushes legislation following reversal of 2018 murder conviction

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SANTA FE, N.M. – A family who thought they had justice is now going to have to sit through their son’s murder trial, again, more than seven years after he was shot and killed while getting money from an ATM. 

“Tyler was only 24, he would’ve lived another 50-60 years, and he would’ve done a lot of good during that time. Please validate his life,” said Liz Frank, Tyler Lackey’s mother in November 2018 – when she thought justice had finally been served.

This year, the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of Lackey’s murderer, Matthew Chavez, saying Chavez was denied the possibility of lesser charges.

Needless to say, Lackey’s family is very upset they will have to be in court again. 

On Tuesday, they took their fight to the Roundhouse where the state attorney general announced a new bill that would prevent this from happening to other grieving families.

The most powerful testimony came from Lackey’s mom Tuesday, as she re-read that same speech she gave to the jury back in 2018.

But now, instead of pleading with a jury, she’s talking to lawmakers hoping this bill will make it to the governor’s desk.

“There is a video that they play for the jury where are you see the whole thing, and saw my son get shot twice, and hit the ground. Now we have to do that all over again, it hurts,” Frank said.

Frank thought her son’s murderer would stay behind bars for the next 23 years, but now there is a chance Chavez could walk free.

“We asked you here to join us because we need to address when I believed to be a profound miscarriage of justice that occurred in Bernalillo County,” said Attorney General Raúl Torrez.  

The appeals court overturned Chavez’s conviction of second-degree murder, saying with how state law is currently written he should have had the opportunity to face a lesser charge like voluntary manslaughter.

“To apply imperfect self-defense to lessen the charge of murder to manslaughter, is to blame the victim for getting attacked,” Frank said.

While Court of Appeals judges made the ruling according to state law, not all of them believe it was the right thing – Chief Judge Hanisee wrote in his opinion:

“It is the role of either the New Mexico Supreme Court or the New Mexico Legislature to repair imperfections in the law and I urge either or both to do so.”

“By the recommendation, that acknowledgment by a Court of Appeals judge, the attorney general’s office, subsequently filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court,” said Torrez. 

This case was not heard by the Supreme Court. So now Torrez has turned to the Roundhouse and, with the help of Sen. Moe Maestas, they have introduced Senate Bill 363.

“It says that if you initiate a conflict and your intended victims’ reaction, exceeds your expectations too bad it’s on you and that’s common sense,” Frank said. 

SB 363 adds language to New Mexico law saying the aggressor of a felony, especially if they flee the scene of a crime, or resist arrest they are no longer eligible for a lesser sentence. This bill would have prevented Frank from having to sit through another trial.

SB 363 was just introduced Tuesday morning and was just assigned a number. Now, in the coming days, it will be assigned to committees as it starts to make its way through the Legislature over the next few weeks.

So if this bill passes, will it be able to be used in Lackey’s murder trial?

Unfortunately not – the retrial has already been ordered to the jury will have the option to convict Chavez or either second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter which carries a lighter sentence. Of course, there is the chance this jury could find him not guilty.

A petition supporting SB 363 has also been created. To sign, click here.