IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Police Shooting Spurs Criticism of New Mexico’s Bail Reforms
By: Susan Montoya Bryan
In just weeks, William Wilson would go from being fresh out of a county lockup in northwestern New Mexico to dead, the 26-year-old felon having been shot by authorities after he opened fire on a state police officer, striking the officer’s badge and sending shrapnel flying.
Authorities on Monday were still investigating Sunday’s fatal traffic stop as law enforcement officials, prosecutors and defense lawyers debated whether the state’s new rules for determining whether defendants can be released while awaiting trial are working as intended…
The aim was to establish provisions to ensure clearly dangerous defendants remain incarcerated as they await trial, while allowing for the release of nonviolent suspects who might otherwise languish in jail only because they cannot afford bail.
San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said Wilson had an extensive criminal history.
State police say Wilson was released from prison in May to the custody of the county jail due to a pending case involving aggravated burglary, larceny and firearm charges. Court records show he was released from the jail in early August after being fitted with an ankle monitor.
Christesen expressed frustration with the reforms during a news conference Sunday afternoon.
“They’re putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” he said, as a mug shot of Wilson in a jail jumpsuit was displayed in the background. “As citizens of this state and this county and the city of Farmington, they should be outraged that this happened.”
The sheriff described the state’s pretrial detention procedures as a “catch-and-release” system.
“Our judges, our lawmakers, and all the law enforcement and every citizen in this state needs to stand up and stop this nonsense of catch and release,” he said…
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien said it was previously up to judges to make the decision whether to use a high bond to keep a defendant in custody. Now, prosecutors have to determine whether they have enough evidence to argue during an expedited process that someone should be held due to safety concerns…
With the added layer of evidence required, O’Brien said smaller counties that lack resources could end up having a more difficult time pursuing no-hold bonds for violent offenders.
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