Supreme Court orders release of former daycare owners
Order will give Sandi, Mary Taylor release as they seek appeal of 2019 conviction.
September 16, 2020
SANTA FE — The New Mexico Supreme Court, in a 3-1 decision, ordered a pair of former Portales daycare owners be granted release from prison pending an appeal on their 2019 convictions.
Sandi and Mary Taylor, former owners of the Taylor Tots Daycare, were sentenced to 30 and 36 years, respectively, for reckless child abuse.
The charges were in connection to the death of 22-month-old Maliyah Jones and injuries to then 2-year-old Aubri Loya. Prosecutors believe the two girls were left in a hot car for approximately two hours and 40 minutes while under the care of the Taylor Tots daycare business on July 25, 2017.
The Taylors were granted release Friday morning with a $10,000 bond for each — 10% of a $100,000 cash/surety bond — a requirement to list an address within the judicial district and appear at a 1:30 p.m. Wednesday condition of release hearing. The Supreme Court’s Thursday order required the Taylors’ release conditions be no greater than those entered pre-trial.
Tye Harmon, attorney for the Taylors, said it was his understanding the Taylors are the first defendants in state history to be released from prison while an appeal is pending.
“I believe there are multiple issues on appeal that are likely to result in reversal or a new trial,” Harmon said. “If that’s the case, and they meet the other criteria that they are not a flight risk and they are not dangerous, they are entitled to (be) and must be released. Obviously, they met every single condition.”
A filing on behalf of the Taylors included the following contentions:
• The state did not produce any evidence that either Sandi or Mary Taylor intended to leave the children in the vehicle, and that upon discovering the children called 911 and did everything they could to save the children.
• Following their conviction, the Taylors were not granted a pre-sentencing release, despite no other criminal record, no evidence they would be flight risks and 18 months of following strict court orders.
• The state did not meet the burden of proving the Taylors engaged in reckless disregard as required under state law, but the district court repeatedly allowed the state to misstate the definition of reckless disregard.
• The district court refused to allow testimony from a detective who called the matter a “tragic accident” based on his investigation.
• The district court approved jury instructions that left no way to determine if the jury reached a unanimous decision on the Taylors’ conduct, and denied defense counsel request to include definitions of “reckless disregard” and “accidental conduct.”
• Defense counsel was prohibited from stating accidents are not crimes under New Mexico law.
The order filed Thursday afternoon addresses none of the particular arguments, and states the court shall issue an opinion at a later date to elaborate on its ruling.
Justice David K. Thomson issued a dissent on the filing, noting, “I do not agree the appeal ‘raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial.’” Justice Judith Nakamura did not participate in the case.