According a Channel 13 news story, an anonymous tipster sent News 13 pictures of stacks of domestic violence cases piled up on a table in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.
The photos were of 3 stacks of roughly 500 domestic violence case reports.
Each one of the domestic violence reports were linked to a domestic violence victim left waiting from 2 to 5 months without hearing anything after calling police reporting misdemeanor domestic violence crimes including assault, theft and restraining order violations.
Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Resource Center Amy Whitfield had this to say regarding the unacceptable delay in handling of the domestic violence cases by the District Attorney’s office:
“The time delay makes people feel like people aren’t there for them. … For the victim, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony … they’re afraid. It’s they’re unsafe and that they don’t know what might happen to them. … A lot of times what victims feel is that nobody is on their side, no one is there for them. … They [are] isolated from their support system, their family, their friends … So, really being able to reach out means leaving behind the perpetrator, who is essentially their only support. … The amount of effort that it takes for a domestic violence victim to come forward, if they’re not contacted immediately, it means that they may end up staying within that [abusive] relationship or they may end up changing their mind about prosecution.”
According to Whitfield, the Domestic Violence Resource Center helps roughly 3,000 people a year with getting restraining orders and counseling for victims and their children.
Channel 13 went to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez for an “on camera” reaction, explanation and response.
District Attorney Raul Torrez explained the stacks of reports were made up of “criminal summons” cases where police did not arrest anyone for various reasons such as suspects had already left the scene of the crime.
District Attorney Raul Torrez acknowledged that victim advocates before would call people who reported domestic violence cases within 2 weeks compared with an average of 2 months to 5 months because there use to be more investigators and victim advocates working the cases for his office.
District Attorney Raul Torrez reported that since News 13 called his office the week before about the backup of criminal summons domestic violence cases, his office caught up on calling the victims.
Torrez proclaimed on camera:
“Right now, there is no backlog … The question for us, though, is how do we sustain this over the long-run? We obviously have to move faster … It’s obviously disappointing to me to have that kind of delay … Every single case that comes into the office and every single victim of crime in the community deserves to get immediate attention.”
Easier said than done.
District Attorney Raul Torrez’s explanation for the domestic violence case backlog was revealing when he said:
“We moved some of those resources into the felony side of the office so that we could increase the case speed on those most violent and dangerous offenders”.
According to Torrez taking quick action on court cases is one of the best ways to deter someone from committing more crimes in the future.
Torrez said focusing resources to move fast on the few repeat offenders responsible for the majority of crime is working to drop the overall number of criminal cases in Bernalillo County.
Torrez expressed hope that eventually falling crime rates will mean more manageable caseloads for his staff so that all victims get the attention they deserve.
DA Raul Torrez went on to tell News 13 that he put in another budget request this year to the 2019 New Mexico Legislature for more investigators and victim advocates.
It is doubtful Torrez will get far with his request for more funding because of what he did last year during the legislative session and his failure to fill vacant postions.
DÉJÀ VU TORREZ
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is the largest law firm in New Mexico that employs attorneys, paralegals, investigators, victim advocates and legal support staff.
The office screens approximately 25,000 cases a year that are referred to the office by law enforcement department such as the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, New Mexico State Police and other police agencies and makes a decision on which cases will be prosecuted.
Ultimately, approximately 4,000 felony cases are indicted and presented each year in State District Court with approximately 35,000 misdemeanor charges prosecuted in Metropolitan Court each year by the Bernalillo County District Attorney.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office employs 319 full time personnel which includes at any given time approximately 118 full time prosecutors assigned to prosecute felonies and with attorneys also assigned to the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court that handles misdemeanor domestic violence cases and aggravated DWI cases.
Last year during the 2018 New Mexico Legislative session, DA Raul Torrez asked the New Mexico State Legislature for a 30% increase in the budget of $18.2 million, or a $5.4 million increase.
Torrez told legislators he wanted the increase in his budget in order to hire an additional 34 attorneys.
Torrez said last year that the lack of resources was the main reason his office could not come close to prosecuting all the pending cases in his office.
According to Torrez at the time, there were “simply too many criminals and not enough staff”.
Torrez said “If we don’t get sufficient resources in this legislative session, I would think several thousand felony cases simply will become too old, too stale for us to act on. It’s not justice”.
The problem apparently never pointed out by the Legislative Council Services last year to the Senate and House appropriations committees is that DA Torrez had 45 vacant positions which included 18 vacant attorney positions that he was not able to fill during his first year in office.
Notwithstanding the vacancies, the 2018 Legislative session approved budget for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office went from $18.2 million to $21.5 million-dollars thanks to the lobbying efforts of DA Raul Torrez and the support of the Bernalillo County delegation members.
Torrez was given a final total of $21.5 million-dollar budget to run his office while other DA offices in the state got a fraction of that funding level.
After District Attorney Raul Torrez secured the large increase in the DA budget, Senator John Arthur Smith, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent Torrez a very strong message by actually saying on camera that Torrez was given “enough rope to hang himself” with the increase in budget.
Fast forward to the 2019 New Mexico legislative session.
During the last year, things have not gotten better for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office from the standpoint of personnel and vacant positions.
During the legislative session last year, Torrez had 45 vacant positions.
The New Mexico Sunshine Portal has been updated to include 2019 data to date.
The sunshine portal reflects that one year later, District Attorney Raul Torrez still has 44 vacant positions.
Below is the sunshine portal link to funded Positions and you click on “Judicial” then click on the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s office for the listing names, salaries and vacancies:
According to the Sunshine Portal, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office is fully funded for 319 full time positions with a personnel budget of $14,529,202.
However, of the 319 fully funded positions, only 275 are filled with 44 vacant positions listed.
The 44 vacant positions include 11 vacant “at will” attorney positions, 15 classified legal secretary positions and 2 victim/witness positions (victim advocates).
NEW MEXICO RANKS 10TH HIGHEST IN COUNTRY FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
On September 16, 2017, according to an annual study published by the Violence Policy Center, it was reported women are more likely to be killed by men in New Mexico than nearly any other state
The study found the state has the 10th-highest rate of women killed by men, marking the third straight year New Mexico had appeared toward the top of the list, while New Mexico’s overall homicide rate ranked lower.
A New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee study described New Mexico’s response to domestic violence as fragmented and uncoordinated.
The Legislative Finance Committee report also highlighted the judiciary’s inability to provide effective oversight of domestic violence offenders.
Battery on a household member is a misdemeanor but the magistrate courts and the metro court which handle misdemeanor cases have limited ability to monitor offenders serving probation for domestic violence.
The report found that New Mexico spends little on treatment programs for domestic violence offenders and has little evidence of the effectiveness of those programs.
The study counted 16 women killed by men in New Mexico during 2015, the most recent year for which data was are available at the time.
The rate of 1.52 victims per 100,000 women is higher than the national rate of 1.12.
Nearly all the woman were killed by someone they knew.
Most of the killings were not connected to any other felony.
Half followed arguments between the victim and her killer.
New Mexico has ranked among the top 10 states with the highest rates of women killed by men during the last decade.
The Violence Policy Center promotes gun control and found that each state at the top of the list of women killed by men have a high rate of firearm ownership which no doubt includes New Mexico’s gun culture.
Children exposed to domestic violence often come from broken homes and live in poverty.
Study after study reveal that domestic violence involving children usually results in the child growing up with mental health problems and become an abuser of their own children and spouse.
For more see:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
District Attorney Raul Torrez’s explanation for the domestic violence case backlog was revealing and a reflection of someone who does not understand the issue when he said:
“We moved some of those resources into the felony side of the office so that we could increase the case speed on those most violent and dangerous offenders”
According to Torrez taking quick action on court cases is one of the best ways to deter someone from committing more crimes in the future.
Domestic violence cases have far more than its share of “violent and dangerous offenders”.
Frankly, taking quick action and aggressively prosecuting domestic violence cases will likely save a woman’s life.
In law enforcement circles, when Director Amy Whitfield of the Domestic Violence Resource Center said “The amount of effort that it takes for a domestic violence victim to come forward, if they’re not contacted immediately, it means that they may end up staying within that relationship or they may end up changing their mind about prosecution” is what is referred to as the “cycle of violence”.
A full explanation of the “cycle of violence” is given in the below postscript to this article as well as information on the Domestic Violence Resource Center headed up by Amy Whitfield
When Whitfield says “it means that they may end up staying within that relationship” it means all too often a woman ends up in a body bag.
Years ago, I served as Chief Deputy District Attorney for Bernalillo County and had supervisory authority over all the felony divisions, including the Violent Crimes Division and the Domestic Violence Division.
My last felony trial at the District Attorney office was as co-counsel in a jury domestic violence case for attempted murder where a woman was cut up with a box cutter resulting close to 200 stitches.
One thing I learned as Chief Deputy District Attorney is that Albuquerque’s dirty little secret is that domestic violence is the number-one reason why a woman is admitted to the emergency room of the University of New Mexico Hospital.
Statics in Albuquerque show that after about the 10th or 11th time there is a call out of the Albuquerque Police Department to a home for domestic violence, it is usually to pick a woman up in a body bag.
When I was Chief Deputy District Attorney, then District Attorney Jeff Romero had a specialized Domestic Violence Unit that had the single largest caseload of all felony units and the office gave major priority to Domestic Violence felony and misdemeanor cases.
The Domestic Violence Felony Unit was fully staffed with attorneys and victim advocate assisting them.
The Domestic Violence Unit had some of the most seasoned and most skilled trial attorneys in the office at the time.
The Domestic Violence Felony Unit had the highest caseloads of between 150 and 200 active, pending cases and had one of the highest conviction rates in the office.
As Chief Deputy District Attorney, I was also charged with creating the Domestic Violence “Target Abuser Call” (TAC) Team in Metro Court.
The TAC unit was modeled after the Chicago DA’s office assigning attorneys, investigators and victim advocates who specialized in prosecuting domestic violence cases.
The TAC Team would review pending cases and target repeat offenders and prosecute.
When I left, the Metro Court TAC Team had a 96% conviction rate.
When Raul Torrez became District Attorney a mere two years ago he immediately abolished the specialized units and spread cases throughout the office of attorneys.
Apparently to District Attorney Raul Torrez, domestic violence cases are not considered some of the “most violent and dangerous offenders”, otherwise he would not have admitted he diverted resources elsewhere.
Torrez’s attitude that he is “disappointed” with the handling of the domestic violence cases is what is so damn laughable seeing as he admitted to diverting resources elsewhere and away from making contact with victims of domestic violence.
Since Torrez has been elected, all he has done is complain about lack of resources and blames judges for letting people out pending trials.
Not at all surprising, Torrez again now argues his office does not have enough victim advocates who use to contact domestic violence victims within 2 weeks.
This coming from the very DA who last year was given a huge increase in his budget which included funding for more staff such as victim advocates, yet after a full year he still has a major problem filling positions that are vacant.
Torrez is the very same DA who was taking credit for reduction in crime stats just a few weeks ago.
I suspect what was really disappointing to Torrez is that he now knows members of his own staff are on to him and he is probably trying to find out who on his staff leaked the information to Channel 13.
Torrez should try doing his job first before giving his media interviews telling everyone how disappointed he is in the people who work for him.
No other District Attorney in the State should be envious of Bernalillo County DA Raul Torrez when he goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee and has to explain to Senator John Arthur Smith and others exactly what he has been doing over the last year and why he has been unable to fill all of his 44 vacancies.
It will be interesting if District Attorney Raul Torrez blames the judicial system for not being able to fill the positions within his own office because caseloads are too high, pay is too low, and no one wants to work for the District Attorney’s Office because of the way he manages it.
CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
The term “cycle of violence” refers in domestic violence cases to repeated and dangerous acts of violence as a cyclical pattern.
The term is associated with high emotions and violent actions of retribution or revenge.
The pattern, or cycle, repeats over and over again in time, it can last years, happening many times during a relationship.
According to the Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services of Stockton, California, the “cycle of violence” theory was developed by Dr. Lenore Walker.
The Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services explains the cycle of violence has three distinct phases which are generally present in violent relationships:
1. Tension Building Phase
2. Violent Episode Phase
3. Remorseful/Honeymoon Phase
Outlined below by the Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services are typical feelings and behaviors exhibited by family members in the various phases of the cycle of violence.
PHASE ONE: TENSION BUILDING
WOMAN FEELS: Angry, unfairly treated, hopeless, tense, afraid, embarrassed, humiliated, disgusted, depressed.
BEHAVIOR: Nurturing, submissive, “walking on eggshells,” afraid to express feelings, may use alcohol and/or drugs to avoid situation.
PARTNER FEELS: Tense, frustrated, disgusted, self-righteous, or jealous.
BEHAVIOR: Verbally abusive, fits of anger, silent, controlling, arrogant, possessive, demanding, irritable, may use alcohol or drugs.
PHASE TWO: VIOLENT EPISODE
WOMAN FEELS: Frightened, trapped, helpless or numb.
BEHAVIOR: May try to protect self, hit back, submit helplessly, get away or seek help.
PARTNER FEELS: Angry, enraged, “right,” jealous and/or frustrated.
BEHAVIOR: Dangerously violent, has a deliberate desire to hurt or kill, out of control, irrational, “Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde”.
PHASE THREE: REMORSEFUL OR HONEYMOON
WOMAN FEELS: Relieved, angry over the incident, resentful, guilty, hopeful, in denial over the seriousness of the incident.
BEHAVIOR: Offers excuses for the batterer, may be withdrawn, tries to solve or prevent future incidents, hopes/believes changes will last.
PARTNER FEELS: Apologetic, remorseful, forgetful about degree of violence, self-righteous, unable to understand why the woman is still angry.
BEHAVIOR: Makes promises to change, blames her or others for the problem, may use alcohol or drugs as an excuse.”
For more information on the Stockton, California Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services click on the below links:
Study after study has revealed that domestic violence involving children usually results in the child growing up with psychological issues and becomes an abuser of their own children and spouse.
Children exposed to domestic violence often come from broken homes and poverty.
THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCE CENTER (DVRC, INC.)
According to their web site “The Albuquerque Domestic Violence Resource Center organization was formed in 1996 to provide an advocate alongside the Albuquerque Police at domestic violence scenes.
Over the years the program has grown to provide services to Central New Mexico residents.
In 2007, the Domestic Violence Resource Center joined the Albuquerque “Family Advocacy Center” as an on-site partner and provide advocacy and case management for domestic violence survivors leaving abusive relationships.
The Domestic Violence Resource Center grew to provide trauma informed counseling for survivors of domestic violence working towards recovery and specializing in counseling for child witnesses.
The Domestic Violence Resource Center programs continue to grow recently added Primary Prevention services working to change the social norms that contribute to the continuance of violence.
Services at DVRC, Inc. are free, confidential, and professional.”
The location and contact information for the Domestic Violence Resource Center are:
Domestic Violence Resource Center
625 Silver SW, Suite 185
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102
Main Office Line: (505) 843 – 9123
Services Helpline: (505) 248 – 3165
For more on the Albuquerque Domestic Violence Resource Center click on the below link: