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13-year-old's murder conviction overturned

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A state court has overturned a Portales teen’s 2011 murder conviction and ordered a new trial, according to court documents.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled in an opinion posted Friday that statements DeAngelo Montoya made to investigators were inadmissible because his age precluded him from waiving his Fifth Amendment rights.

link DeAngelo Montoya was 13 when he was accused of killing Angel Vale in 2010.

Montoya was convicted of second-degree murder in the July 2010 shooting death of 21-year-old Eastern New Mexico University student Angel Vale.

Montoya was 13 at the time of the shooting. He was remanded to a Children, Youth and Families Department group facility until he is 21, the maximum punishment allowed for a child.

The state ruling overturns a pre-trial ruling by District Court Judge Drew Tatum that allowed Montoya’s statements.

District Attorney Andrea Reeb said Monday it is her understanding that the state Attorney General’s Office plans to ask the state Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision.

She said if the trial is returned to her district, her office plans to present additional evidence to allow Montoya’s statements, and regardless of that decision, plans to retry Montoya.

In his opinion for the court, Chief Judge Rodrick T. Kennedy wrote:

“We conclude that the evidence presented by the State through answers to a significant number of leading questions did not amount to clear and convincing evidence of Child’s ability to waive his legal rights.

“The testimony of the investigating officers was based solely on their single interaction with Child during the interrogation. Each officer provided no more than the knowledge they had about Child based on the interaction during the interrogation and some statements from his mother.

“On this basis alone, they concluded that Child seemed more intelligent and mature than most children of unknown ages that they have worked with and was able to waive his rights. They did not compare Child’s abilities and maturity to the panoply of other average juveniles of any stated age level.

“The officers also did not testify in detail about the quality of the other children they had previously dealt with or the nature of those contacts. The investigators, given the likelihood of bias stemming from their role as Child’s accusers, can be assumed to have colored views of their own opinions and actions.”

The state standard for waiving Fifth Amendment rights is 15 years old, the opinion noted.

Prosecutors said Montoya broke into Vale’s home multiple times when she was away and ultimately stole a rifle from the home that was used to kill her on July 22, 2010.

They believe Vale caught the boy in her back yard with the rifle and he shot her three times, though he repeatedly denied the charge in interviews with police.

Tatum declined comment on the ruling.

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