People protest judge's decision to release suspect in Victoria Martens case | KOB 4

People protest judge's decision to release suspect in Victoria Martens case

Grace Reader
Created: November 10, 2019 05:29 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— People gathered downtown to protest a judge’s decision to release one of the main suspects in the Victoria Martens case Sunday.

Judge Charles Brown denied a motion from the state to keep Fabian Gonzales in jail until his trial, stating that prosecutors could not prove that Gonzalez is a danger to the community.

“He needs to stay where he's at. He needs to live with what he's done. He needs to really not be free. This little girl died and he's in jail right now thinking he's going to get out—it's not right,” said Tyia Foster, a protester at the rally.

Crystal Gutierrez is the founder of New Mexicans Against Child Abuse. She said both adults and children are fearful to have Gonzalez set free.

“Adults are angry about it, but children are scared. My children are scared,” Gutierrez said.

“Even if he didn't participate, he was there. And someone that is there and see such a horrific act happen, then he's a definite threat to us,” she added.

The decision to set Gonzalez free is also thanks to a 2016 constitutional amendment change where voters agreed to alter the criteria judges must use to decide whether defendants like Gonzalez can bond out.

“It's not what we thought it would have been. We were kind of bamboozled and tricked into what it would do,” Gutierrez said.

The Administrative Office of the Courts released a statement about Judge Charles Brown’s decision:

“What happened to Victoria Martens is horrific and all New Mexicans want justice in this case.  In every case, a judge’s responsibility is to follow the law – not be swayed by emotion or public sentiment. Judges take seriously their obligation to protect public safety in deciding whether people charged with a crime should be held in jail or remain free until their guilt is determined at trial. In America, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty of a crime. By allowing a person to remain free while awaiting trial, we as a society avoid punishing someone awaiting a determination of guilt – a fundamental principle of our justice system.

“What the public hears or reads in news accounts about a crime represents only part of the story. Judges, in contrast, must weigh all the facts presented to the court and apply the law fairly and impartially. Judge Charles Brown last week carried out his responsibilities under the law in considering whether to release Fabian Gonzales, who has remained in jail for three years awaiting trial. The judge ruled that prosecutors failed to prove the defendant is so dangerous that only continued pretrial detention would protect the community. If the district attorney believes the judge erred, he can seek an expedited appeal. The courts are ready to provide the prosecutor and defendant the opportunity to determine at trial whether Mr. Gonzales has criminal responsibility in the horrific murder of Victoria Martens.”

Judge Brown said pretrial services will need to find housing for Gonzales before he is released from jail.

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