Jury finds woman not guilty of vehicular homicide in 2017 Santa Fe crash

Phaedra Haywood, The Santa Fe New Mexican
·3 min read

Apr. 12—A jury deliberated for about seven hours over two days before finding Alexis St. James not guilty of causing a DWI crash in 2017 that claimed the life of a motorcyclist.

St. James fist-bumped her attorney under the counsel table Monday after the judge read the mixed verdict, in which jurors found her not guilty of vehicular homicide or making an illegal left turn in connection with the death of 50-year-old Anthony Archuleta, but found her guilty of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and reckless driving.

"I'm really grateful [the jury] deliberated so hard and paid such good attention," St. James, 67, said after the jury was dismissed.

"I'm just grateful to them and to my attorney and very sorry for the whole situation," she said. "It's been terrible for everybody."

St. James encountered Archuleta around 2 p.m. Sept. 9, 2017 — the weekend of La Fiesta de Santa Fe — at the intersection of St. Michael's Drive and Pacheco Street after consuming two margaritas at Tomasita's, according to testimony presented at her trial last week.

Prosecutors said St. James turned in front of Archuleta, causing him to strike the rear panel of her vehicle and slide underneath her vehicle and across the intersection.

St. James' attorney, Val Whitley argued Archuleta had been speeding and had run a red light immediately before the crash. Whitley said Archuleta had caused the crash by approaching the intersection at around 60 mph and colliding with St. James, who was making a slow left turn.

The conviction on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident — a fourth-degree felony — is because St. James drove a few blocks away after the crash and pulled over on a side street. A witness had followed her there.

St. James took the stand in her own defense Friday, testifying she had kept driving because she had been in shock following the collision. But after the immediate shock wore off, she said, a voice of reason told her she needed to pull over.

Toxicology reports showed both St. James and Archuleta had levels of alcohol in their system above 0.08, which is the presumptive level of intoxication in New Mexico.

St. James' blood-alcohol level was 0.12 and Archuleta's was 0.15, according to testimony presented at the trial. Archuleta also had morphine metabolites in his system and was found with heroin stashed in a cigarette pack in his pocket.

Whitley called an expert witness, who testified St. James' blood draw was compromised to the point that the results were unreliable.

The expert — chemist and quality control auditor Janine Arvizu — said the tubes of blood police gathered from St. James weren't full — a known indicator that the vacuum seals on them may have been old or weakened by being stored at extreme temperatures.

Arvizu said the blood also sat unrefrigerated at the Santa Fe Police Department for four days before being sent to the state crime lab for testing.

Samples left unrefrigerated for more than 48 hours are no longer valid, she said, in part because alcohol levels in the blood can increase inside the tube through the process of fermentation.

"We always knew this was going to be a hard case to prove, but we thought it was important to seek justice for the victim and his family," District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies wrote in an email following the verdict Friday. "We are grateful that the jury listened to the evidence and returned a felony conviction."

St. James could be sent to prison for up to two years on the two convictions.

She's tentatively scheduled to be sentenced next month.

If she had been convicted of vehicular homicide, she would have faced more than 15 years in prison.

Archuleta's family has a civil case pending against St. James over his death.

The family did not respond to requests for comment through the District Attorney's Office.