#abq4ward: What is behind the revolving door for criminals? | KOB 4

#abq4ward: What is behind the revolving door for criminals?

Danielle Todesco
August 03, 2017 10:20 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Over the past few months, there have been major changes to the court system in New Mexico. A constitutional amendment passed by the voters changed the way judges do business. 


In KOB's latest #abq4ward report, Danielle Todesco dedicated hours to observing two different Bernalillo County District courtrooms to see those changes in action.

Todesco sat in court with one of the most prominent bail bondsmen in the state, John Madrid. From his perspective, this change is immediately putting him out of business. But even he will say, more importantly, it's putting nearly every suspect arrested back on the streets unless the district attorney's office takes action ahead of time.

Todesco sat in court all morning on July 21 for Bernalillo County District Court Judge Charles Brown's docket. Brown released nearly every single defendant on their own recognizance unless a prosecutor had filed for preventative detention. 

That motion creates another separate hearing with another judge who decides if the prosecutors can prove that suspect is a danger to the community. If they can prove that with clear and convincing evidence, then the suspect is held in jail without bond before their trial.

Todesco also sat in Judge Cindy Leos' courtroom that day. She released almost every defendant with pretrial supervision, including Emilio Mirabal, who is charged with second-degree murder.

"We just witnessed 25 or 30 people being released on their own recognizance with nothing more than a promise to show up in court," Madrid said.

The Madrids have been in the bail bond business for decades. They say when someone used them to post bond and get out of jail, that suspect had a major incentive to show back up to court. If that suspect was a no-show for court, bounty hunters went looking for them.

"There's nobody going to be out there looking for them if they're released on their own recognizance or if they're released third party to pretrial services. Nobody," Madrid said.

The constitutional amendment that voters approved in November was designed to make sure the most dangerous defendants stayed in jail, and people who were too poor to afford bail and posed minimal risk to the community wouldn't spend weeks or months in custody. 

But to implement the amendment, the New Mexico Supreme Court had to put new court rules in place. Those rules require the courts to evaluate each defendant with a "Public Safety Assessment" tool. Currently, Bernalillo County is using a tool created by the Arnold Foundation. 

Even with the highest rate of failing to appear in court and the highest rate of new criminal activity for a defendant, the tool still recommends that person be released on their own recognizance unless the prosecutors have filed for preventative detention.

"That's why the most violent of the violent are getting out of jail, is because the standard of release is so high that nobody basically can be held," Madrid said.

Friday night at 10 p.m., hear our exclusive interview with New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, who spearheaded these court changes.


Danielle Todesco

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