ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office will not prosecute two police officers for the fatal shooting of James Boyd, a judge ruled Thursday.
District Judge Alisa Hadfield said in a court filing there was an appearance the murder charges filed against the Albuquerque police officers were connected to a separate investigation by Albuquerque police into Brandenburg for suspicion of witness intimidation and bribery.
The judge said although the defendants didn’t prove the two investigations were connected, media reports and Brandenburg’s own public statements created the appearance there was a link between them.
“Disqualification of District Attorney Brandenburg is necessary to ensure the appearance of fairness of trial and to ensure public trust or confidence in the criminal justice system,” Hadfield said.
She said Brandeburg’s office will appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case.
“There are many important public interests at stake in regard to this case. We are carefully evaluating what is in the best interest of the public on how to move forward, and we anticipate that we will be able to address your questions next week,” Brandenburg said in a statement. “Everyone deserves more than a hasty response in regard to such an important ruling.”
Former Albuquerque police Detective Keith Sandy and officer Dominique Perez each shot at Boyd in March 2014, fatally wounding him. Brandenburg’s office filed criminal information against the officers that charged them with murder in January.
Boyd was shot after an hours long standoff, and footage of the incident captured from Perez’s on-body camera sparked local and national outcry, as it appeared Boyd was surrendering seconds before shots rang out. Prosecutors have said in court they were only bringing evidence against the officers because of the evidence, which included the controversial video.
Sam Bregman, Sandy’s attorneys, said Hadfield made the right decision to disqualify the office.
“We are very hopeful that whoever the special prosecutor assigned to this is, that they take a close look at it,” Bregman said. “If they do that, they’ll see that no crime was committed and that charges shouldn’t have been filed in the first place.”
Bregman and Luis Robles, Perez’s attorney, argued in court that Brandenburg shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute the case because it appeared the charges were filed in retaliation.
Brandenburg was a suspect in a Albuquerque police case that centered around Brandenburg’s son, Justin Koch. Koch was a burglary suspect, and Brandenburg allegedly contacted his victims. Albuquerque police have given the case to the attorney general’s office, which will decide if charges will be filed against Brandenburg.
The Journal reported on that investigation in December. A month later, Brandenburg’s office filed a criminal information that charged Sandy and Perez with murder.
The case against Sandy and Perez marks the first time that murder charges had been filed against an Albuquerque police officer for an on-duty shooting since Brandenburg became district attorney in 2001.