NM Supreme Court clarifies pretrial detention requirements
January 12, 2018 10:32 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – What does it take to keep repeat, violent criminals behind bars? It's become commonplace to see accused child abusers and even accused murderers walk free shortly after committing crimes.
One possibility is that attorneys and judges are on different pages when it comes to pre-trial detention, as there's a lot of confusion on the type of presentation needed to convince a judge to keep offenders behind bars.
Officials at the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office said a new ruling will hopefully get everyone on the same page.
It's been more than a year after New Mexicans voted on the amendment they believed would keep dangerous criminals off the streets. But for many, that hasn't been the case.
“We were in a place where both prosecutors and judges just had a differing view on what was required,” said Raul Torrez, Bernalillo County district attorney.
He’s referring to the requirements needed for a judge to keep a suspect behind bars with no bond.
Take Paul Salas. He's been accused of nearly 50 armed robberies, and when the state wanted him locked up pending trial, Judge Stan Whitaker disagreed.
“I'm a little perplexed that we don't have some testimony, some evidence other than just a reference to the criminal complaint,” Whitaker said in a pretrial detention hearing last April.
There was a similar situation even more recently. Steven Deskin, accused of vehicular homicide, was released on his own recognizance, despite the state's objections.
The lack of live witness testimony was one of a number of reasons the pretrial detention motion was denied.
Torrez has long objected to treating a detention hearing like a mini-trial. On Thursday, the New Mexico Supreme Court echoed that. In a written decision, the court clarified pre-trial detention expectations, saying live witness testimony is not required in detention hearings. Court documents, police reports or criminal complaints are sufficient.
“These are relatively straightforward presentations to make, and hopefully that settles that question and we can move on to trying to make this a safer community,” Torrez said.
The state Supreme Court clarification does not guarantee more pretrial detention motions will be granted, as judges do still have the final say.
Updated: January 12, 2018 10:32 PM
Created: January 12, 2018 09:41 PM
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