New Mexico governor seeks repeal of bail reforms
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez called on lawmakers to repeal and replace a constitutional amendment approved last year to overhaul the state’s bail system.
Martinez wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday that the state judiciary was using the constitutional provisions and new court rules to “return criminals to our neighborhoods.”
A spokesman for the governor confirmed the post but declined to elaborate on what might replace the current rules.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November 2016 to ensure dangerous defendants remain incarcerated as they await trial, while allowing for the release of nonviolent suspects who would languish in jail because they cannot afford bail.
New rules for pre-trial detention hearings went into effect in July. District attorneys contend the hearings have turned into ineffective mini-trials that strain their agencies, and have proposed changes to evidentiary requirements.
Public defenders and reform advocates say New Mexico is on right track in shifting from a money-bail system to one focused more on balancing public safety and fairness.
Martinez, a Republican and former prosecutor, paired her statement on Facebook with the mug shot of a man with facial tattoos named William Wilson, who had been released from jail pending trail when he shot a State Police officer at a traffic stop in Las Cruces in August. He was originally arrested on aggravated burglary, larceny and firearm charges.
A badge and bulletproof vest protected the officer. Wilson was shot and killed by law enforcement.
“I’m calling on legislators to reform the pre-trial detention process during the upcoming legislative session and bring this issue to the voters immediately,” Martinez said.
The Democratic-led Legislature convenes in January for a 30-day session.
Martinez has been rebuffed by the Legislature in her attempts to restore capital punishment. The second-term governor cannot run for re-election next year.