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High Court rules cellphone records admissible

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The cellphone records of a man charged in a seven-year-old murder case can be used as evidence at trial, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a unanimous decision, written by Chief Justice Michael Vigil, the court ruled that a police affidavit for a search warrant provided enough information to obtain Jaycob Michael Price’s telephone records.

A District Court judge in Albuquerque threw out some of the evidence obtained through the search warrant in 2018.

Price was indicted in 2017 for the 2013 murder of Julio Apodaca, 26, who was found shot in the head while sitting in a car in the parking lot of an apartment complex where his sister-in-law lived.

According to the ruling, Apodaca visited his sister-in-law to borrow money.

Police found that Apodaca had received a call on his cellphone after leaving his sister-in-law’s apartment and police obtained a search warrant to identify the owner of the cellphone that called him and other information.

Price’s attorneys sought to block the use of any information obtained by police, claiming officers didn’t have probable cause to obtain the information from the cellphone’s carrier.

The judge permitted prosecutors to use the subscriber records showing Price owned the phone that was used to call Apodaca shortly before his death.

But the judge threw out evidence that showed the cellphone’s tracking information and records listing calls and text messages.

The Supreme Court found that the search warrant affidavit established probable cause for obtaining all the cellphone records in overturning the lower court ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant for cellphone location data because of constitutionally protected privacy interests for digital information showing a person’s whereabouts.

“We conclude that the totality of the circumstances described in the affidavit establishes reasonable grounds for the judge issuing the search warrant to find probable cause that the unknown person talking to Victim (Apodaca) was in the vicinity of the parking lot when the conversations took place before Victim was shot,” Vigil wrote in the opinion.

He acknowledged the case was a “close” call.

Price was indicted for Apodaca’s murder in December 2017 and faces charges of armed robbery stemming from the incident.

Price was serving a sentence for aggravated burglary and other charges at the time of the indictment, which was filed almost four years after Apodaca was shot.

Price was discharged from probation earlier this year.

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