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Editorial: Felon’s Isotopes outing undermines justice system

He pleaded no contest to attempted murder and aggravated burglary in a horrific case that left a 17-year-old girl near death and permanently injured.

Justin Hansen – who sidestepped justice for 10 years – is now on house arrest as he awaits sentencing, but that didn’t keep him from taking in an Isotopes baseball game last Saturday.

It’s a classic example of why the public sometimes has zero confidence in the criminal justice system.

Justin Hansen seen in a video taken by Brittani Marcell’s sister at a June 2 Albuquerque Isotopes game. (Source: District Attorney’s Office)

A man who pleads to a heinous crime – and who has been placed on house arrest – is free to enjoy an outing while the slow gears of the criminal justice system churn. All the while his victim, attacked in her West Side home in 2008 when she was a Cibola High School senior, gets no reprieve from the lifetime of suffering Hansen imposed on her – blow by blow with a shovel.

Brittani Marcell, who had to re-learn how to walk, talk and eat, is deaf in one ear, blind in one eye and still undergoing surgeries.

If this case is any indication, justice in Albuquerque is cold, cruel and indifferent toward the victims it’s supposed to protect.

To be clear, Hansen, who is facing up to 18 years in prison, was following the rules set for him, and he even had permission from pretrial services to attend the game. Therein lies the problem.

A judge placed Hansen on house arrest, although his conditions of release allow him to leave to take his children to school, which is pretty generous in and of itself.

For pretrial services to give anyone on house arrest a pass to attend a ball game is questionable. For the agency to do it in this case is outrageous, given how vicious the crime was and the fact that Hansen managed to escape justice for nearly a decade until Marcell began to remember details of the attack and detectives were able to match his DNA with blood left at the crime scene.

It’s vital for the public to have faith in the criminal justice system and for decisions coming out of that system to make sense. Incidents like this chip away at that faith and leave the public with the impression the justice system that’s supposed to protect all of us, in this case at least lacks common sense at best, is moronic and impotent at worst.

Of course, Hansen and those at pretrial services who approved the baseball outing were probably hoping the whole thing would fly under the radar.

Unfortunately for them, Marcell’s sister was attending the same game and ended up just 10 feet away from the man who savagely attacked her sister in their home, leaving her bloody and unconscious in the entryway. Stunned, she pulled out her phone and took photos and videos of Hansen that she later shared with the District Attorney’s Office.

“He pled; we had a little bit of relief there,” Jennifer Marcell said. “Now to know he’s out living a normal life again while the rest of us are just waiting for him to be taken off the streets for good, it makes no sense.”

The DA’s Office alerted the court to Hansen’s field trip in a motion filed last week. Prosecutors are asking the court to review Hansen’s conditions, contending “allowing such a frivolous outing is contrary to the spirit of the court’s order setting conditions of release – even if technically within the letter of the prior orders.”

Frivolous, indeed.

Hansen appears to have stayed out of legal trouble since attacking Brittani Marcell in September of 2008. He also deserves credit for entering a no-contest plea and sparing his victim, her family and the taxpayers a trial.

But those factors don’t negate the viciousness of the crime for which he is awaiting sentencing. Nor do they erase the fact that Hansen has been free all of these years when he should have been behind bars.

By allowing Hansen out of his house arrest to attend a baseball game, pretrial services minimized the severity of the gruesome attack he perpetrated.

Those who signed off on this field trip owe the Marcell family an apology – and need to exercise common sense the next time a request like this crosses their desks.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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