Judge: Police can't call witnesses in Santa Fe obelisk case - Albuquerque Journal

Judge: Police can’t call witnesses in Santa Fe obelisk case

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Protesters topple the Soldiers Monument in the Santa Fe Plaza during an Indigenous Peoples Day rally in October. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – The 1st Judicial District attorney says that the case of a Santa Fe man charged for his role in an Indigenous Peoples Day rally that turned destructive is essentially over, due to a Santa Fe police officer’s failure to meet court-ordered deadlines.

Santa Fe Magistrate Donita Sena ruled Monday that the prosecution can’t call witnesses in the case because an officer failed to provide a witness list on time. As a result, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said her office won’t be prosecuting the case.

“That’s because there’s no case left,” she said in an interview after the hearing.

Carmack-Altwies said that no evidence can be presented in the case because there must be witnesses to lay the foundation for evidence before it’s presented at trial.

The District Attorney’s Office had been offering technical assistance to the Police Department, she said, but it wouldn’t have formally entered the case until it was ready for trial.

Sean Sunderland, 24, was charged with criminal trespass and resisting an officer for his alleged role in the Oct. 12 demonstration that resulted in the 152-year-old “Soldiers’ Monument” being torn down from the center of Santa Fe’s historic Plaza.

Sunderland’s case had previously been dismissed, and then reinstated, after the Santa Fe Police Department prosecuting officer Jesse Campbell failed to show up for a motion hearing. It was later determined that Campbell wasn’t notified of the hearing by the court.

Deputy Chief Paul Joye said Campbell thought he met the deadlines in the case. Joye said he hasn’t talked to the DA’s Office about where the case goes from here.

“We respect the ruling,” he said. “We’re disappointed, but understand the judge’s ruling.”

Sunderland’s defense attorney, Kitren Fischer, said Monday that prosecutors didn’t follow the court’s rules, so her client deserves to have the charges dropped.

“The Court ruled as it always does when a party fails to adhere to court-ordered deadlines,” Fischer said in an email. “Mr. Sunderland’s case was no different.”

At Monday’s hearing, Campbell said that he gave Fischer a list of all officers on duty and their reports and that he didn’t know she wanted a “formal witness list.”

Judge Sena told Campbell that the rules for discovery are the same in Magistrate Court as in District Court, and she read them to him.

“This does not say that the names contained within a report are sufficient for defense to know who those witnesses are named,” Sena said.

Sean Sunderland charged with trespass, resisting arrest


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