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Bond denial dispute heads to top court

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court is set to hear arguments this morning in a dispute over a District Court decision to deny bond to the woman accused of crashing a stolen van into a car in January, killing an Albuquerque mother and her teenage daughter.

The appeal brings up two separate provisions under the state Constitution, which both permit a defendant to be held without bond. The first allows bail to be denied to individuals facing a capital felony charge, such as felony murder. And a new provision, approved by voters in November, lets judges hold felony defendants without bail when they determine by “clear and convincing evidence” that no other conditions of release will ensure the safety of the community.

Elexus Groves faces two counts of felony murder, along with lesser charges. Second Judicial District Judge Cindy Leos issued an order denying bond at an arraignment hearing in February. Weeks later, during a hearing to review Groves’ conditions of release, Judge Brett Loveless, according to the appeal, raised the point that Groves was not entitled to bail under the older Constitutional provision.

Groves’ attorney argues in the appeal that the denial of bail was arbitrary and based on an “incorrect standard of law.”

In a response, an assistant attorney general asked justices to affirm the District Court’s decision. Kelley wrote that Groves is facing capital charges, warranting no bond, and, on top of that, that the state showed by clear and convincing evidence that Groves was subject to a hold under the new amendment because no other release conditions could protect the safety of the community.