HOBBS, N.M. (KRQE) – A Lea County judge has shutdown a Hobbs teen’s effort to move her April criminal trial to another county. Alexis Avila, 19, is accused of throwing a newborn baby in the trash in January 2022, and faces one first degree felony count of child abuse causing great bodily harm.
Judge William Shoobridge rejected Avila’s change of venue motion in a decision filed Monday, March 13. The judge ruled, in part, that Avila’s defense “presented no testimony or specific documentary evidence showing an impartial trial is impossible in Lea County” “or any county in the Fifth Judicial District.”
In the initial change of venue filing last month, Avila’s attorney, Ibukun Adepoju, partly argued that the case has received extensive coverage from New Mexico media outlets statewide. Adepoju also argued that some of the media coverage in the case was prejudicial.
In his decision, Judge Shoobridge wrote that Avila’s defense was “unable to provide any news story that was factually inaccurate, emotional or opinionated.” The judge also noted that of the 39 stories citied by the defense, only one was published in 2023.
Avila’s defense had sought to move the trial to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where the villages and towns of Ruidoso, Carrizozo and Capitan are located. However, Judge Shoobridge ruled that the number of potential jurors in Lea County is more than three times larger than Lincoln County.
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“Defendant’s motion is not supported by any showing that the state of feeling in Lea County, New Mexico is such that she cannot obtain a fair trial, Judge Shoobridge wrote in a six page decision. “The number of news articles standing alone does not show prejudice, or that it would have an effect upon the Defendant receiving a fair trial in Lea County.”
While Avila’s defense also cited evidence from questionnaires of potential jurors indicating possible bias, Judge Shoobridge indicated that any biased jurors will ultimately be screened out from participating in the trial. Avila’s defense argued 102 potential jurors indicated prejudice in a recent questionnaire. Roughly 280 questionnaires were sent out.
“Voir dire shall be conducted to evaluate any actual prejudice of prospective jurors and determine if any juror cannot set aside information receive out the courtroom and base a decision upon whether the state has provide its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Shoobridge wrote. Avila’s trial is currently slated to take place between April 11 and 14, 2023.