Despite her initial support, governor says voters were 'misled' on bail reform | KOB 4

Despite her initial support, governor says voters were 'misled' on bail reform

Caleb James
October 25, 2017 10:22 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is reversing her position on a voter-approved state constitutional amendment regarding bail reform.


In 2016, Martinez aggressively supported the amendment and urged voters to pass it. Now she says those voters were "misled."

That bail reform amendment has been at the center of a lot of controversy. The amendment also allows judges to release offenders who aren't considered a public threat, but critics say the guidelines to decide that aren't working. Martinez has become one of those critics.

"We have murderers who are accused of murder and are walking amongst us," Martinez said Monday in an interview with El Paso television station KVIA.

Martinez said a November 2016 state constitutional amendment meant to reform bail procedure is instead creating a revolving door of dangerous offenders.

"Frankly, the voters who voted for this amendment were misled," she said. "They were misled that the most dangerous would stay in jail."

But through an archive check, KOB producers identified numerous times Martinez herself and members of her administration urged voters to pass the amendment last year.

Martinez endorsed the proposed amendment in her 2016 State of the State address, saying "we need to amend our Constitution to allow judges to keep the most dangerous criminals in jail – without bail."

Then just months before the vote, Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan told the Carlsbad Current-Argus newspaper: "Having been a career prosecutor for 25 years, Governor Susana Martinez understands that we need to do more to keep dangerous, violent criminals off the streets and behind bars where they belong ... The Governor urges New Mexico voters to adopt this amendment in November."

When KOB asked the governor's office Wednesday why she believed voters were misled despite previously endorsing the amendment, spokesman Joseph Cueto said rule changes made to the amendment have rendered it ineffective.

"The Governor, along with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature – including unanimous passage in the House – and 87 percent of the voters all supported it," Cueto told KOB. "Nobody could have predicted that judges would rewrite it through rules. It’s clear that the only way to end the revolving-door justice system is to repeal it and replace it with a system that keeps violent and repeat criminals behind bars where they belong."

The rule changes to the amendment took place after several New Mexico Supreme Court hearings where justices heard testimony from prosecutors, defense attorneys and others in the legal community.

KOB asked the governor's office if she had an opportunity to testify in those hearings, but have not heard back.


Caleb James

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