SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s Supreme Court dismissed an Albuquerque man’s appeal of two consecutive life prison sentences for a double murder in 2017. According to a news release, in a unanimous decision, the Court concluded that Brandon Vigil waived his right to appeal his sentence when he accepted a plea agreement that provided for the waiver. Vigil was just 19-years-old when he shot and killed two friends, Daniel Miramontes and Consuela Rios.
The news release states that the Court ruled Vigil could challenge the constitutionality of his sentence through a post-conviction proceeding by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Vigil must serve at least 60 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. According to the news release, during his sentencing, Vigil acknowledged to the court judge that he understood the terms of his plea agreement and was giving up his right to challenge the constitutionality of his sentence on a direct appeal, which is the appeal to a higher court initially after a conviction.
“Defendant entered into the plea agreement to preserve the possibility that he would eventually be eligible for parole but agreed that the district court had the discretion to run his two sentences consecutively. Defendant voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his right to appeal,” the Court held in an opinion written by Justice David K. Thomson and released through a new release.
The same news release states Vigil initially pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder but changed his plea to no contest. Under his plea agreement, the prosecution would not seek a sentence of life imprisonment without parole but Vigil would receive a life sentence for each murder. It was up to the judge to decide whether the sentences would be served concurrently – making Vigil eligible for parole after 30 years – or consecutively, which required him to serve 60 years before parole eligibility according to the news release.
In his appeal, Vigil contended that because of his age his consecutive sentences were essentially the same as life in prison without parole and violated constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The news release states the Court did not rule on that legal question but specified the issue could be raised in a habeas proceeding.