FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2022
Contact: Jerri Mares — (505) 321-4372
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a second-degree murder charge stemming from a fatal shooting on St. Patrick’s Day 2019.
Clayton Thomas Benedict was charged with both second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of James Porter, but the district court found the State did not establish probable cause for the murder charge. The State appealed, and the Court of Appeals found that the undisputed evidence supported a reasonable belief that a person in Benedict’s position would not have been provoked to the point of using lethal force and remanded the case for the murder charge to be reinstated.
“No New Mexican should be harmed in one’s own community. I am pleased that the Court of Appeals got it right and I look forward to this going to a jury to decide,” said Attorney General Balderas.
Benedict, working as a driver for Uber, picked up the victim, James Porter, and Porter’s friend. Benedict and Porter got into an argument about a cleaning fee after Porter’s friend vomited in the car. Benedict pulled the car over and ordered both men to get out of the car. The argument continued and Benedict pulled a gun and fired five shots, killing Porter. In a statement to police, Benedict claimed he was provoked due to Porter’s threats that he would get back in the car and run Benedict over.
This case is being prosecuted by the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The OAG was presented on appeal by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Lammons.