State District Judge Alisa Hart will determine whether Griego should be sentenced as an adult, in which case he faces up to 120 years in prison, or as a child, which would mean his release from custody. Attorneys presented closing arguments Tuesday following an amenability hearing that began in December and was interrupted by the recusal of the longtime judge on the case. The hearing resumed Monday in Hart’s courtroom.
Her decision is expected in the coming months; attorneys must first file a list of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by May 10.
“We have a big task ahead of us today,” prosecutor Diana Garcia said in her closing argument. “Essentially, we’re determining whether Nehemiah Griego, now 22, has been sufficiently rehabilitated to sufficiently protect society’s interests.”
Because that decision requires the court to consider protected health information, much of the hearing has been closed to the public. On Tuesday, portions of Garcia’s closing argument were sealed, as was all of the closing argument by Griego’s attorneys.
Garcia reminded the court of the details of the 2013 quintuple shooting in the Griego family’s South Valley home.
The then-15-year-old Griego first shot his mother, Sarah, and 9-year-old brother, Zephaniah, around 1 a.m. Jan. 19, 2013. Then he went into his younger sister’s room and shot Jael, 5, and Angelina, 2. He waited for his father, Greg, to return home from an overnight shift at an Albuquerque homeless shelter and then shot him.
Garcia argued that Griego had not experienced childhood trauma and that a witness indicated that the trauma he experienced was brought on by the deaths of his family.
“It just appears there’s a presumption that he had a traumatic childhood, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” Garcia said. “We want to be able to place blame on something. And a traumatic childhood would allow us to explain some things.”
But Griego’s attorney, Stephen Taylor, said in an interview that his client suffered physical abuse from his father and verbal and emotional abuse from his mother.
Hart took over the case after Judge John Romero recused himself from the case five days into an amenability hearing in December. Romero initially sentenced Griego as a child, and the Court of Appeals last year required him to hold a new hearing to reconsider whether Griego was amenable to treatment. That decision came days before Griego was scheduled to be released.
In an interview Tuesday, Taylor said the uncertainty has been hard on his client.
“It’s still difficult for Nehemiah, not knowing if he’s going to be able to continue with his treatment or if he may have to go to prison,” Taylor said.