Judge grants motion to withdraw as counsel

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Ninth Judicial District Judge Stephen Quinn granted a public defender’s motion to withdraw as counsel for a 19-year-old Portales man charged in the slaying of a teenage woman in April 2004.

Raton attorney Ray Floersheim stepped down as Richard Baca’s lawyer on Friday during a hearing at the Roosevelt County Courthouse. Baca is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Amber Robinson, 19, of Portales, whose body was found in May 2004 buried in the back yard of the Baca home.

Clifford Baca, Richard’s 20-year-old brother, is also facing a first-degree murder trial.

Floersheim cited communication problems with his defendant as the main reason for his motion to withdraw.

“There are problems,” Floersheim said. “If I go forward with the trial there may be a mistrial. It’s that serious. It’s to that point.”

Baca was arraigned in June of 2004 and then district attorney Brett Carter said the trial could be held in late 2004.

On Monday, Donna Mowrer, senior prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, said the trial cannot be scheduled before December.

Segments of the trial have been delayed for various reasons. Proceedings in the trial were first delayed while the Portales Police Department waited for DNA evidence from the lab.

Another delay was when a plea agreement for 25 years in prison between Baca and the State of New Mexico was supposed to take place in mid-May. However, it did not because Baca said he was told it would be for 21 years.

The family of Baca filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Board of the New Mexico Supreme Court alleging Floersheim tried to force Baca to enter into a plea-bargain, and when Baca refused, Floersheim acted hostile toward the defendant. The complaint also said Floersheim did not assist Baca in going over the jury pool.

Mowrer said Robinson’s family is entitled to a speedier trial and the state was opposed to the withdrawal of counsel. However, Mowrer said a month-and-a-half would not be enough time for new counsel to prepare. Baca’s trial was originally set for Sept. 26.

If Richard Baca is found guilty, he could be sentenced to 30 years for the first-degree murder charge alone, according to Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler. Baca also faces two charges of tampering with evidence.

Robinson was reported missing by her family on April 26, 2004.