MOULTRIE -- The parents of a black teenager slain during a fight at a house party in New Mexico are seeking action against the district attorney who they say botched the indictment of their child's killer.
Demetrius Sims, 16, formerly of Moultrie, died hours after another teenager allegedly stabbed him in the chest during a brawl Dec. 28, 1999. The autopsy revealed that Sims had a low blood alcohol level and had ingested no drugs. But testimony of witnesses suggests that many at the party were drunk.
Police later arrested Michael O'Leary, 17, at the same hospital in which Sims died when O'Leary had gone to the emergency room to treat cuts he got during the fight. Officers found the weapon in his back pocket, reports said.
The case became high profile in New Mexico when a grand jury declined to indict O'Leary on charges of second degree murder.
The Albuquerque black community echoed the outrage of the victim's family, saying the district attorney failed to bring enough evidence before the grand jury to secure an indictment against O'Leary, who is white.
The district attorney, Jeff Romero, was up for reelection during that time. Suspicions arose in the community that the case was neglected because the alleged offender is white, but Sims' stepfather Jack Jackson of Moultrie said Tuesday he thinks that money could have spoken to Romero louder than race. Jackson understands that O'Leary comes from an upper middle class family, he said.
In 2000, a New Mexico Superior Court grand jury decided not to indict O'Leary on charges of second degree murder. Later, the state sought to file identical charges in juvenile court, but this time in front of a judge. The judge dismissed the charges, saying in a memorandum of opinion that the state waited too long to file, employed "numerous, questionable ways" to get around time limits and had "bad reasons" for petitioning. Those bad reasons included buckling under pressure from the public during an election year.
The judge did suggest during the hearing that the prosecutor trying the case may have violated ethical rules, according to The Perspective, a New Mexican publication.
Since then, the district attorney has made no move to appeal the judge's decision, Jackson said.
Jackson is pursuing action from the New Mexico Supreme Court and state legislators regarding what he thinks was a weak attempt at prosecuting the case.
"The D.A.'s office did not support us as they should as the family of the victim. In the grand jury, he did not call all the witnesses that he should have called," he said. "It's like he sat there and let him walk away with it -- like it was swept under a rug."
Among the witnesses the district attorney failed to call was a teenager who was filming the party during the incident. On the tape, which was entered into evidence, Sims could be heard screaming when he was knifed, Jackson said.
None of Sims' friends who were at the party were called to testify either, he said.
"It was like he didn't want them to testify, the people that were really around there that knew something about it," Jackson said.
O'Leary pled self-defense, but testimony showed that he left the fight to go to his car where he allegedly got a knife out of his glove compartment which he subsequently used to stab Sims.
Sims' mother, Terry Jackson, filed a civil suit against the party's hosts, who served minors or allowed alcohol at the party and later allegedly did not help Sims after he was stabbed. The family is traveling to Albuquerque this week to enter their depositions, Jack Jackson said.
The Albuquerque Tribune contributed to this article.