The release this year of a man awaiting trial in a fatal shooting prompted the state Supreme Court to issue new guidance Monday for judges weighing pretrial detention for accused criminal defendants found to be “dangerous.”
The five-justice panel found that a district court judge erred in releasing Joe Anderson pending trial given his “extensive criminal history” and poor record of complying with court orders. Anderson had already served time after being convicted in a 2010 homicide.
Anderson, 41, was arrested Dec. 4, on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man in Southeast Albuquerque. A 2nd Judicial District Court judge in January denied a prosecutor’s motion to keep Anderson behind bars while awaiting trial.
On Feb. 6, the Supreme Court overturned that decision. Anderson’s GPS ankle monitor was found a day later by the side of a road. Albuquerque police caught up with and arrested Anderson at the end of February.
In a unanimous opinion, justices said prosecutors must only prove that no release conditions can “reasonably” protect the public from a criminal defendant the judge finds is dangerous.
“Certainly, the district court must consider patterns in a defendant’s past behavior,” Justice Briana Zamora wrote for the five-member court.
Zamora wrote that “if a defendant has a pattern of disregarding official directives, it is certainly reasonable to infer that the defendant is unlikely to comply with any conditions of release that the district court could impose in the future.”
District court judges are required to consider two “prongs” when deciding whether to detain someone awaiting trial.
The first prong determines whether the defendant is dangerous.
For the second prong, the judge must decide whether prosecutors have proven that no conditions can be imposed on the defendant that will protect the public.
The finding that a defendant is dangerous must be a factor in deciding whether conditions of release can be fashioned that will protect the public, Zamora wrote.
Zamora wrote that “in considering the release-conditions prong of the detention analysis, like the initial dangerousness analysis, the district court should take a holistic, commonsense approach.”
Prosecutor “must only prove that no release conditions can reasonably protect the public, not that no release conditions can possibly protect the public,” Zamora wrote.
The opinion comes down amidst intense debate over pretrial detention. The governor and prosecutors had sought to pass a law during the most recent legislative session to make it easier for judges to order pretrial detention for suspects charged with certain violent crimes. The proposed law did not make it through the sessions.
Anderson was previously sentenced to seven years in prison in the 2010 fatal shooting of Vincente Sanchez, court records show.
In the most recent case, Anderson is charged with killing Raymond Aviles, who was fatally shot last August while riding a motorcycle near Eastern and Amherst SE. Aviles died in the middle of Eastern Avenue, according to a criminal complaint.
A confidential source told police Anderson lent Aviles the motorcycle and didn’t return it as promised, the complaint said.
Police allege Anderson sought out Aviles and shot him.
Police obtained nearby surveillance footage showing Aviles pulling into an apartment complex on a motorcycle before attempting to flee from a white SUV. The video then shows the SUV’s driver and a passenger get out and chase Aviles, who drives out of the camera’s view.
Second Judicial District Court Judge Emeterio Rudolfo ordered Anderson released from custody in January.
In his Jan. 13 order, Rudolfo wrote that although Anderson presented a danger to the community, the danger could be mitigated by conditions of release, which included fitting Anderson with a GPS ankle monitor.
Anderson’s compliance with conditions of release in other pending cases undercut the prosecutor’s argument that no conditions of release could protect the public, Rudolfo wrote.
On Feb. 6, the state Supreme Court reversed the district court decision ordering Anderson’s release. A warrant was issued for Anderson’s arrest the following day, court records show.
But court officials were alerted Feb. 7 that the ankle monitor was found on the side of a highway. Police arrested Anderson on Feb. 26.
In the Supreme Court opinion, Zamora wrote that Anderson’s “history consists of nearly two decades of criminal behavior, including crimes of violence.”
Anderson “has a history of failures to appear, bench warrants, and probation violations” as well has “overlapping cases,” including new felony drug convictions in 2008 while in prison for homicide, she wrote.