ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Friday cleared the way for more court proceedings to determine whether a man who killed five family members as a teen was receptive to treatment.
The ruling came as Nehemiah Griego approaches his 21st birthday on March 20 and is scheduled for release under a 2016 order that found he had been receptive to psychological treatment.
It also said his therapy and rehabilitation at a state facility for adolescents had prepared him for release.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas appealed that order in an attempt to have Griego’s juvenile sentence overturned.
Prosecutors initially argued for Griego to be sentenced as an adult and sent to state prison after he pleaded guilty, saying the crime was premeditated and he had not expressed remorse.
Balderas said Friday he was pleased with the appellate court’s decision.
Griego was 15 when authorities say he fatally shot his family at their home south of Albuquerque in January 2013. Griego first shot his mother as she slept, then his 9-year-old brother and two sisters, ages 5 and 2, according to Bernalillo County sheriff’s officials.
Hours later, his father returned home, and the teen ambushed him, authorities said. He spent much of the rest of the day at Calvary Church, where his father had been a pastor.
He later told a deputy that he had anger issues and had been annoyed with his mother before carrying out the shootings.
His attorneys have maintained in his defense that he had been abused at home and likely suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of beatings by his father.
His attorney Stephen Taylor did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the latest court ruling.
Earlier this week, Taylor said he didn’t believe the state or the district court had the authority to keep Griego in custody after his scheduled release date.
The Bernalillo County district attorney’s office filed a separate motion seeking to keep Griego locked up pending the appeal of his juvenile sentence.
The appeals court noted that the state child welfare agency loses authority to retain Griego once he turns 21 and the district court will have jurisdiction over him pending the ongoing proceedings.
Both sides will be able to present evidence regarding Griego’s progress over the past two years.
The ruling states it will be up to the district court to decide whether Griego has been “rehabilitated or treated sufficiently to protect society’s interests.”
Griego had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but he has told investigators he no longer takes medication for either. He also said he has learned to work through his emotions.
Ahead of his scheduled release, an attorney for Griego sought a name change for his client and requested that documents and hearings that contain the new name be sealed, the Albuquerque Journal reported .
In the court filings, attorney Matthew Bernstein wrote that the name change will help Griego “in avoiding unnecessary recognition.”
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com