We Must Fix What is Behind the Crimes

Republican State Representative Monica Youngblood’s proposed legislation to reinstate the death penalty is the Republican response to the heinous killing of 10 year old Victoria Martens a few months ago.

Following is my September 2, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Letter to the Editor entitled “We must fix what is behind the crimes”:

There are times the death penalty is simply not good enough to render justice upon violent, immoral people who commit crimes against the most innocent, defenseless and helpless people, especially children, in our so called civilized society. I believe this to be true about the death penalty for those people who commit heinous crimes against their own defenseless children of tender years. The drugging, raping, murder, dismemberment and the burning of the body a 10 year child by her mother, her boyfriend and another is one such crime. Even life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is not enough for some violent crimes such as this, but justice is what needs to be sought by a civilized society, not vengeance by imposing the death penalty.

Thirty five years ago, I did a grand jury investigation of the mishandling of child abuse cases by a state agency, and to this day I can recall too many details of those crimes and the people I prosecuted. Since 2001, in New Mexico, no less than 22 children, ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse. (Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.) Study after study has shown that children from lower economic homes have a higher risk to suffer severe physical abuse and sexual abuse from their parents. Cool heads must prevail and ensure swift justice is bought upon those who killed 10 year old Victoria Martens.

Our criminal justice system presumes innocence until proven guilty and demands due process of law, even for the most heinous of crimes, and not an “eye for an eye” approach to criminal justice reflected by the death penalty. Even more important, Albuquerque and New Mexico must find solutions to what contributed to or caused this most horrific crime: domestic violence, substance abuse, children living in severe poverty, a poor education system, the breakdown of the family unit, the failures of our social services and child protective services, a failed mental health system, an ineffective criminal justice system, a failing economy. We need to confront our demons and find solutions to the problems that caused this horrific crime against a child.

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Aeschylus

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.