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I was a juror in Judge Flores’ court; I say retain her

Despite the New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission recommendation to not retain Judge Jacqueline Dolores Flores, I strongly disagree based on my one and only interaction with this judge. A few years ago I was selected to be on a jury before Judge Flores. The case involved charges against an elderly Hispanic male for interfering with a police investigation involving his son and putting police officers in danger.

The incident occurred late at night at the defendant’s home while police were investigating the possible involvement by the defendant’s son in a criminal activity earlier in the evening. The conditions were clearly dangerous for all involved, and several police officers arrived at the defendant’s home with spotlights and loudspeakers announcing their presence and demanding that occupants come out of the home.

It took awhile, but the defendant exited the home and raised his hands and asked what was the problem. The police officers asked if the son was home and for him to come out. The defendant reentered the home and brought the son out, also with hands raised. During the ensuing encounter the police officers decided to handcuff the son and threw him to the ground, breaking his shoulder. The defendant tried to step in and was handcuffed and dragged through several yards of gravel to a police car, sustaining significant injuries. All this was captured on the police video.

Judge Flores carefully explained the case to the jury, was very polite and professional in handling both plaintiff and defendant lawyers, police officer witnesses as well as jury questions. When the jury retired to deliberate, I was selected as foreman. The jury reviewed all evidence carefully, reviewed the video of the incident several times and came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that either the defendant or his son were confrontational with the police at any time. In fact, although the circumstances were potentially very dangerous for the police officers, it appeared that there was clear opportunity to de-escalate the situation while still completing an arrest of the son. The defendant had not made any physical effort to confront the officers. Hence, the jury voted unanimously to acquit the defendant.

After I made the jury announcement of acquittal, the jury returned to the deliberation room and Judge Flores came in to thank the jury. Amazingly, she asked if the jury would be willing to debrief our decision with the lawyers of both sides. The jury agreed and proceeded to explain to both lawyers and the involved police officers why we had arrived at our verdict.

The jury was very complimentary of the danger to the police officers and recommended that the problem was not necessarily with the officers, but with the lack of training in how to de-escalate such situations. A police counselor who was present agreed that this was a systemic issue that needed to be addressed.

This was a very innovative and proactive result of the trial that resulted in both sides complimenting Judge Flores and the jury. Incidentally, the jury was also informed that the son was absolved from any involvement in the earlier criminal investigation.

So, if this one personal incident helps voters decide, I hope they vote to retain Judge Flores.

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