SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Valencia County man convicted of murder in 2004 will get another day in court. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled the legal argument that put Mario Rudolfo behind bars is “unclear.”
Rudolfo was convicted nearly a decade ago for a murder he was accused of committing as a 16-year-old. The deadly event was a Thanksgiving shooting in 2001.
Now, the state’s highest court has retroactively applied a new rule to Rudolfo’s case, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. Here’s what happened: In a different case (State v. Marquez), the New Mexico Supreme Court narrowed the list of crimes that can be charged as a ‘felony murder,’ and decided that shooting at from a vehicle can’t be the underlying felony to convict someone for ‘felony murder.’ That was 12 years after Rudolfo’s case, but the Supreme Court says it applies to Rudolfo’s case.
“Because the parties provided the jury with a general verdict, we cannot conclusively determine whether the jury relied on an invalid theory of felony murder when convicting Petitioner [Rudolfo] of first-degree murder,” the Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Michael E. Vigil says. “In other words, it is impossible for us to determine which theory of first-degree murder the jury selected.”
Rudolfo has been serving a life sentence for the murder conviction and nearly 10 years for additional crimes. He asked the courts to consider converting his charge from first-degree to second-degree murder because of the changes in legal theory.
A district court denied that request. But now the Supreme Court has spoken: Rudolfo gets a new trial for the first-degree murder charge. But his other convictions, such as attempted murder and tampering with evidence remain in place, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.