ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s not yet clear if James Boyd’s troubled and violent criminal past will be admissible when former Albuquerque police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez stand trial for second-degree murder and lesser offenses for fatally shooting Boyd, a mentally ill homeless man, in March 2014.
During a Friday afternoon hearing, 2nd Judicial District Judge Alisa Hadfield heard arguments for and against allowing Boyd’s background to be open for discussion during court proceedings. Hadfield said she will review the arguments, and issue a written ruling and explanation, though she did not say when. The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 12.
Special prosecutor Randi McGinn argued that keeping Boyd’s background hidden from the jury was essential to “selecting a jury untainted by information excluded by the court.” As an alternative, she suggested a gag order to prevent attorneys from talking about it. In fairness to both sides, she said, the backgrounds of the two officers should also be excluded.
Sam Bregman, Sandy’s attorney, and Luis Robles, Perez’s attorney, were joined on Friday by legal counsel representing the local TV stations and the Albuquerque Journal. All were opposed to sealing background information or a gag order on defense attorneys.
Bregman noted that, in previous proceedings, McGinn said a change of venue, as requested by the defense attorneys, was unnecessary, but now wants to have a “secret trial with secret motions, and that the public should not know what’s going on because they would all be tainted.”
Chuck Peifer, an attorney representing the Journal and KOAT, cited U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate court cases, and said that what the prosecution is seeking is “not justified,” that the Constitution requires very specific guidelines for restricting public access to criminal proceedings, that the prosecution didn’t meet any of those standards and that no court “has approved kicking the public out of a criminal proceeding merely on the argument that there might be a tainted juror.”
Boyd, 38, who had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, had been in and out of the Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, N.M., numerous times for evaluation and treatment. He also had a criminal history dating back to the mid-1990s, which had him in and out of jail.
That background includes no fewer than a dozen arrests on felony and misdemeanor charges for such things as assaulting people, including a police officer, whose nose he broke, attacking a guard and an inmate while he was in jail, and destruction of property.
In one bloody outburst, Boyd got into a fight with a man outside St. Martin’s Hospitality Center and sliced the man’s face with a box cutter.
Boyd had two knives in his possession when he was shot and killed, and had brandished them at police officers during the protracted standoff that led up to the shooting for which Perez and Sandy were later charged.
In the wake of that shooting, Perez was terminated from APD and is appealing his termination through his union to the city Personnel Board.
Sandy was placed on administrative leave after the Boyd shooting; he never returned to work and retired in November 2014.