On May 25, 2019, the Santa Fe New Mexican published a MY VIEW guest editorial entitled “Let judges do their jobs” written by Jonathan L. Ibarra. Jonathan L. Ibarra is a former prosecutor and former District Court judge in Albuquerque. Mr. Ibarra now works for the Law Offices of the Public Defender and is a member of the board of directors of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He has served on five different New Mexico Supreme Court committees, including the Pretrial Release Committee.
Following is Judge Ibarra’s editorial comment followed by the link to the Santa Fe New Mexican:
“Some district attorneys are blaming judges for releasing defendants and want to change court rules to detain suspects based solely on the seriousness of the charge. Is this the right idea?
Imagine you are accused of a serious crime you didn’t commit. Maybe someone wanted to hurt you by abusing the system; maybe it’s a case of mistaken identity; maybe it’s all just a big misunderstanding. You get arrested and put in jail. Because of the nature of the charges, you’re not allowed to be released until you see a judge, which could take two days. You’re missing work on top of other issues, like child care, earning money for bills, etc.
You finally see a judge. But, because the prosecutor believes you committed a serious crime, he or she files a motion to keep you in jail. Now the judge must hold you in jail for up to another week, until you see a District Court judge. Even though you’re innocent, there is literally nothing you can do. You might be fired for missing that much work, and you don’t know how you’re going to be able to pay your rent or mortgage.
Then you get to District Court. You get an attorney appointed to you who wasn’t able to meet you until that day, because of the fast timelines and because they already have more than 100 other cases. The prosecutor argues that you should be kept in jail until trial. The only person between you and jail for months is the District Court judge. It’s her job to make sure the prosecutor presented enough evidence that you’re a danger to the community to justify holding you in jail for the next several months, if not years.
Now imagine that the prosecutor believes it should be your job to prove that you aren’t dangerous; that even though you are presumed innocent of this crime, and even though you haven’t had a chance to get witnesses together to prove your actual innocence, you should be denied your freedom simply because you are accused of a serious crime. Why does the prosecutor want that? Because they think it’s too hard. Because other people have been released and then been accused of new crimes. Because the prosecutor feels he doesn’t have time to get the evidence together. Because of a lot of things — that have absolutely nothing to do with you.
Is that fair? Should you have the nearly impossible task of proving your innocence in order to stay out of jail? Do you want the judge to make it easier on the prosecutor to keep you incarcerated for the next year? Of course not. But that’s what district attorneys around the state want.
Do you want a judge who is just going to look at the charge and keep you in custody? A judge who doesn’t care that you’ve never been in trouble before but could punish you before you’ve been convicted, because you “might” be a danger to the community? Of course not. But that’s what district attorneys around the state want.
As a former prosecutor, I know very well the vast power of the state. And the state is now empowered to keep people in jail for over a week just because they decide to. As a former judge, I also know how seriously judges take their duty to do the right thing and to protect the rights of everyone in front of them, including those charged with serious crimes. Don’t let overzealous prosecutors blame judges for protecting everyone — for protecting you. Let judges do their jobs.”
DA RAUL TORREZ ATTACKS ON THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND JUDICIARY
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez is attacking the New Mexico criminal justice system and judges on three fronts:
FIRST: Torrez Blames The Courts For “Revolving Door” High Violent Crime Rates
Soon after being elected DA, Torrez began to blame the courts for the rise in violent crime rates and many, including many in the news media, bought into his bogus argument that the “revolving door” is the courts fault. Less than six months after being sworn in as Bernalillo County District Attorney, Torrez had the DA’s Office issue a report that outlined the problems he perceived since the issuance by the Supreme Court of the Case Management Order (CMO). The main points of the DA’s 2016 report were that defense attorneys were “gaming” the systems discovery deadlines, refusing to plead cases, demanding trials or dismissal of cases when not given evidence entitled to under the law. The District Court did their own case review of statistics and found that it was the DA’s Office that was dismissing the majority of violent felony cases, not the courts.
SECOND: Torrez Objection To Preliminary Hearings
The 2nd Judicial District Court has been shifting from grand jury use to implementing “preliminary hearing” schedule since mid-2015. Raul Torrez was sworn in as District Attorney on January 1, 2017 and from day one Torrez has resisted the change over from grand jury to a preliminary hearing process to charge people with serious felonies. DA Raúl Torrez notified District Court that his office would no longer schedule preliminary hearings in State District Court after writing the New Mexico Supreme Court asking it to intervene and require the District Court to schedule more grand jury time. The District Court responded and told the Supreme Court that preliminary hearings were necessary, would require better screening of cases by the District Attorney and provided statistics that the DA’s Office has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries.
THIRD: Shifting The Burden Of Proof
The most nefarious conduct is when Torrez as an elected prosecutor tries to shift the burden of proof by the prosecution of dangerousness of a defendant to a presumption of dangerousness based on an “alleged” yet to be proven crime. What Torrez wants is a system of “presumption of dangerousness” where a defendant is charged with a violent felony and the person charged be held in custody pending trial. With the presumption of dangerousness the legal burden of proof will be on the defense, which must collect and present compelling evidence to the court in order for a defendant to be released pending a trial, if a trial ever in fact occurs and the charges not dismissed.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Former District Judge Jonathan L. Ibarra wrote a well written guest editorial to the Santa Fe New Mexican to allow Judges to do their jobs. Judge Ibarra is commended for his diplomacy and being a gentleman, but all too often being a gentleman does not have any effect on the stubborn or those who do not want to listen and you must be blunt.
When Judge Ibarra writes “Some district attorneys are blaming judges for releasing defendants and want to change court rules to detain suspects based solely on the seriousness of the charge” and “Don’t let overzealous prosecutors blame judges for protecting everyone — for protecting you. Let judges do their jobs” the person who you can assume he is referring to without mentioning his name is Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez.
It is way too easy to ignore the United States Constitution when you are pandering and running for office and essentially say “catch them and lock them up and throw away the key” or “to hell with constitution, that person is guilty and should be in jail until trial”. Vilifying the judiciary is a pathetic, ignorant tactic of politicians who seek to divide in order to get elected and to ingratiate themselves with voters and to garner publicity. To deny one-person due process of law, no matter how much we think they are guilty, is to deny us all of the constitutional rights we cherish in this country.
Sooner rather than latter, Raul Torrez should get the message that if he continues his assault on the courts he will face an uphill battle for reelection if he does not get his act together, buckle down and do his job instead of looking for television cameras and reporters to blame judges for all his problems.
Its not diplomatic, but District Attorney Raul Torrez needs to “knock it off” with his bogus and petty blame game against judges, do his job and let the judge’s do their jobs and start cooperating with the courts an instruct his office to schedule preliminary hearings