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DWI suspect walks free after judge’s ‘dreadful’ decision

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Charges against a DWI suspect whose case has been pending in court for more than two years – mostly because of 12 delays requested by defense lawyers – were dismissed with prejudice Friday when the officer, still recovering from gunshot wounds in the line of duty, couldn’t be present for medical reasons.

DURAN: Dismissed the charges with prejudice

DURAN: Dismissed the charges with prejudice

APD called the decision of Metropolitan Court Judge John Duran both “frustrating” and “dreadful.”

Lou Golson, a 31-year veteran and member of the department’s DWI unit, was featured prominently in a Journal story published last Sunday which reported that more than 140 of his DWI cases in Metropolitan Court had been dismissed because he couldn’t testify after he was seriously wounded in January.

Now, the case of Pedro Marentes can be added to that tally.

Marentes’ case had been delayed repeatedly, with the most recent defense-related delay granted July 15 when his attorney showed up for trial, then asked to withdraw as Marentes’ attorney.

Golson, who returned to light duty last month, was in court and ready to testify that day, but Duran granted a two-week continuance over the objection of prosecutors.

The trial was rescheduled for Friday, but Golson informed prosecutors Wednesday that he couldn’t be there and the District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to continue the case.

Duran denied the request and dismissed the charges with prejudice, which means they cannot be refiled, because Golson wasn’t there.

“We obviously respect the judge’s opinion, but we asked for a continuance to try to preserve the case,” said DA spokeswoman Kayla Anderson.

Golson resumed making court appearances last month. But because of recent complications with his knee that may require surgery, he has been placed on “injured in the line of duty status,” said Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman.

Albuquerque police slammed the decision to dismiss the case, especially given that Golson gave notice for why he couldn’t make the trial date.

“This one is extremely frustrating, because Lou has been working on this case for more than two years,” Espinoza said. “He called and gave notice. It’s not an appointment he could cancel. It’s dreadful.”

The judge cited Golson’s unavailability and the fact that prosecutors had opposed a defense motion for a continuance two weeks earlier as reasons for the dismissal, Anderson said.

Marentes, the brother of an Albuquerque police officer, was arrested by Golson in October 2012 on suspicion of his second drunken driving offense.

Marentes was also cited for driving on the wrong side of the road and running a stop sign. His blood alcohol tested at 0.07 percent, which is slightly under the limit for when a person is presumed to be intoxicated, according to court records.

Before Golson was shot, the case was continued 14 times, twice by prosecutors and 12 times by the defense. His case had also been set for trial four times this year, according to a state court website.

Marentes was originally represented by attorney Frederick Mowrer, who also represents the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association. Mowrer withdrew from the case earlier this month, citing a conflict of interest.

Attorney Joshua Sanchez recently entered his appearance on Marentes’ behalf.

“I understand the situation with police being in dangerous situations. But the criminal justice system never stops moving,” Sanchez said. The judge “made the right call. The state didn’t have the witnesses to prosecute the case.”

A state Supreme Court rule essentially requires misdemeanor cases, such as DWI, to be brought to trial within 180 days of arraignment. Many delays, however, are caused by the defense.

Journal investigative reporter Mike Gallagher contributed to this report.