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DA: Extra funds will help keep the community safe


APD officer Charles Chavez and a detective with the sex crimes unit walk Charles Taylor to the prison transport building on Thursday, April. 19. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — District Attorney Raúl Torrez said Wednesday he is planning to use some of the extra money allotted to him by legislators this year to dedicate an employee solely to running extra background checks on defendants his office would like to keep in jail pending trial.

His announcement comes a day after scrutiny of the case against accused rapist Charles Taylor.

Taylor had been arrested April 4 on a stolen car case. He was released from custody on court-ordered supervision after an April 10 detention hearing. Nine days later, Taylor was arrested and charged with raping a stranger after asking if he could borrow her lighter.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge Christina Argyres agreed with prosecutors that Taylor should be held in jail pending trial.

“The issue is what are we going to do to protect the community from people like Mr. Taylor? Are there any conditions that will afford anybody any sense of security? And my answer is absolutely not,” Argyres said. “There’s only one place for you, Mr. Taylor, while this case is pending, and that is in the Metropolitan Detention Center.”

Regarding the April 10 hearing, District Court officials say the prosecutor asking the court to keep the 22-year-old in jail did not bring up an earlier aggravated burglary case, which at that point had been dismissed. But the DA’s Office has said it asked the court to take judicial notice of his prior cases.

Torrez said Wednesday that in an effort to increase the number of detention motions that are granted in District Court, his office is taking steps to provide additional information to the judges considering such requests. That effort includes the use of a new program that scans law enforcement and criminal justice databases in order to produce a more complete look at a defendant’s history.

The DA said prosecutors requesting detention have, until now, largely relied on court documents along with Pre-Trial Services records, including a risk assessment that indicates whether detention or release may be appropriate.

But he recently instructed his office to dedicate one person “exclusively to creating as comprehensive a criminal history background profile as we can” in cases where the state is seeking pre-trial detention “as a safeguard against the idea that perhaps court records are not fully accurate or fully reflective of everything we’re trying to convey to the court.”

Torrez says the court grants pretrial detention in only about half of the cases in which his office requests it.

“It’s our hope that by dedicating more resources to providing early detailed information that we will see a significant increase in the number of detention motions that are ultimately granted,” Torrez said.