Albuquerque can add 17-year-old Gisell Estrada to a long list of innocent people falsely accused and jailed by inept police work at APD.
It’s a story we have heard before, where the district attorney and judge who approved APD’s arrest warrant either didn’t read the warrant or just rubber-stamped it. In Gisell’s case, her warrant lacked the basics of probable cause. The detective leaves out many important facts and incorrectly states that a witness to the murder identified Gisell as the suspect.
What the witness did do, which is not explained in the warrant, was to identify a Facebook picture as a person who took part in the murder, as “Lexi.” The witness never stated that Lexi was Gisell, but that is not how the APD detective wrote the original arrest warrant. Without question or concern, an assistant district attorney and judge – the check and balance in our system – signed off, therefore ensuring that Gisell would be put into a place (a Dec. 10 Journal editorial) called “the pokey,” but those of us who have worked there call hell on earth.
APD PIO Gilbert Gallegos compounded this mess by stating that if Gisell would have spoken to the detective instead of invoking her constitutional right to silence, she would not have been arrested. Apparently, the DOJ consent decree and all the promises of constitutional policing are just catch phrases for APD. Gallegos doesn’t seem to understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and Chief Michael Geier is AWOL.
DA PIO Michael Patrick confirmed what everyone knew when he said the DA’s office just follows APD’s lead, confirming the DA is just a rubber stamp for law enforcement.
It’s not supposed to be. The DA’s office is supposed to be a check and balance to ensure innocent people are not prosecuted. Hasn’t DA Raúl Torrez learned anything from Victoria Martens and Jayden Silver-Chavez, to name just two screwed-up investigations by APD? Where are you Raúl?
The office of the court has not made any statement about why one of its judges signed Gisell’s arrest warrant. This is what we get from public officials? Silence when they screw up.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller rightfully cried tears of rage at the Mexico/America border camp for the children of detainees who were locked up. Where are his tears for Albuquerque child Gisell Estrada, who his police department wrongfully incarcerated? Can’t you cry for her, mayor?
Kellers’ first term is looking a lot like Richard J. Berry’s second term. Tim, is this what you want?
What is truly stunning about Gisell’s case is the lack of basic human compassion from Geier, Torrez, Keller and the judge who signed the warrant. Why haven’t any of them publicly apologized to her? Is it the fear of bad PR? Are they missing the gene of human caring in their DNA?
If Gisell’s arrest doesn’t spark change, nothing will.
Geier should retire; his missteps are many. From defending APD for not protecting the 7-year-old child with bloody underwear, to not terminating his Internal Affairs commander for tampering with documents, to ignoring the civilian police oversight when it recommended terminating his past spokesman for time-sheet violations, to his inability to reduce crime, his inaccurate crime stats and now Gisell. How many times will Keller stand with Geier at a press conference, only to have to retract it? Why can’t Keller find his inner former-Mayor Marty Chavez and remove him?
Torrez needs a strong challenger at the next election. If attorneys care about Albuquerque, they should step up and run for DA.
The court should immediately open a public investigation into Gisell’s false arrest, identifying who failed and holding them all accountable. Ultimately, it was a judge who placed Gisell in jail; we need to know why.
If no one is held accountable for Gisell’s false arrest, I will guarantee you it will happen again.
Next time it could be you or your child.