DA wants NM Supreme Court to review grand jury changes | KOB 4
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DA wants NM Supreme Court to review grand jury changes

Kai Porter
July 31, 2018 06:33 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Changes to the grand jury process in Bernalillo County is leading to a battle between the courts and the district attorney.

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Starting in October, the 2nd Judicial District Court will be reducing the number of grand jury panels from 20 to six a month.

Preliminary hearings will now be the preferred method for securing formal charges against criminal defendants.

Last week, Chief District Judge Nan Nash told KOB the change will save the court money and make the charging process more thorough and transparent.

But District Attorney Raul Torres plans to ask New Mexico Supreme Court to review the changes.

He’s concerned crime will rise as a result of the change.

Prosecutors are in the process of drafting a challenge to present to the state's highest court.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is voicing support for the change.

"It's easier in grand jury because they can rely on hearsay for things, so in a grand jury, they can have one officer speak for five minutes instead of actually calling witnesses in the case," said Jonathan Ibarra of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Ibarra says preliminary hearings will be more work for defense attorneys, too – but Ibarra says it's a better way to vet a case before formal charges are filed.

"There's still a much better idea of making sure we know exactly what evidence the state does or doesn't have right away,” Ibarra said. “We want to know if alleged victims are going to be cooperative, if people are actually going to show up for court, instead of letting a case linger for months just to find out they can't prove it after all."

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Kai Porter

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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