Last week, Chamber President and CEO Terri Cole raised concerns about the denials by local judges of pre-trial detention requests made by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.
The comments came in the wake of a deadly shooting in Albuquerque and news reports indicating that the suspects in the case had been arrested just a few months ago for another felony gun crime and were released despite a request by prosecutors that they be held in jail pre-trial.
The judicial discretion to hold potentially dangerous defendants in custody ahead of their trials was the subject of a Chamber-supported constitutional amendment that won overwhelming public support on the ballot in 2016. Despite strong public support for the courts to keep defendants that pose a public safety risk off the streets ahead of their trials, recently released data show that a staggering 53% of the pre-trial detention requests by District Attorney Raúl Torrez’s prosecutors have been denied in the past two years.
Even worse, 37% of the cases where a Bernalillo County judge rejected the D.A.’s motion for pre-trial detention of a defendant involved an underlying gun crime or other deadly weapon charge.
“The public expects our judiciary to hold serious repeat offenders in jail prior to trial. The tragic murder of a UNM student is just the latest example of this expectation not being met by judges,” said Terri Cole. “A person who’s arrested for firing guns from a motor vehicle one day should not be freed and made available to commit a murder with a gun the next.”