State Rep. Youngblood’s trial set for next month

Attorney Paul Kennedy asks Judge Kevin Fitzwater for a jury trial during a hearing in Metropolitan Court on Tuesday. Kennedy is representing Monica Youngblood, a state representative accused of aggravated DWI. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State Rep. Monica Youngblood is set to go to trial before a Metropolitan Court judge in late August.

The three-term Republican lawmaker was in court Tuesday morning following her May 20 arrest at a sobriety checkpoint. She is facing one count of aggravated drunken driving.

Although Youngblood’s attorney, Paul Kennedy, has asked for a jury trial, pro tem Judge Kevin Fitzwater said similar cases are routinely handled using a bench trial, and he did not see the “need to go through the extra expense.”

“I don’t see why we would need to bring a panel of citizens in and go through the jury trial when a charge that carries a penalty of no more than 90 days doesn’t (need) one,” Fitzwater said.

If both parties agree to it, Fitzwater said he would consider allowing a jury to hear the case.

But prosecutor John Duran wrote in court documents last month that the state is opposed to a jury trial in Youngblood’s case, noting that the Court of Appeals has held that a defendant facing less than six months in jail is not constitutionally entitled to a jury trial.

Youngblood, 41, is set for trial at 9 a.m. Aug. 29.

Her arrest came shortly after she was stopped at a checkpoint on Paseo del Norte near Golf Course around 1 a.m. May 20, and denied drinking. Police said her speech was slurred and her eyes were bloodshot, but she refused a breath test.

Youngblood has supported legislation to toughen DWI-related penalties, and in lapel footage recording her arrest, she is heard telling the arresting officer that she fights for law enforcement. At one point, she seemed to mention her attempts to reinstate the death penalty for those convicted of killing law enforcement officers, corrections officers and children.

Youngblood represents House District 68 in Northwest Albuquerque, and is up for re-election in November.

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