The New Mexico Supreme Court has revisited a 2019 decision that barred the state’s court system from continued use of a longstanding legal privilege that disallows testimony by a defendant’s spouse.
The 2019 ruling said the so-called spousal communication privilege was based in misogyny and had “outlived its useful life," but the state high court on Thursday reinstated the privilege while ordering an advisory committee to study whether the privilege should be modified or abolished.
The court abolished the privilege in an Aug. 30, 2019, decision that upheld the murder conviction of a Clovis man, David Gutierrez II, but the court earlier this year granted his request to rehear his appeal.
The new order Thursday opens up the issue of the fate of the spousal privilege for review by the Rules of Evidence Committee, but it lets Gutierrez's conviction stand along with portions of the 2019 decision on how the spousal communications privilege applied to his case.
Gutierrez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in the 2017 killing of Jose Valverde, who was found dead in a boxcar he used as his home.