While some local officials said the recent crimes are a sign New Mexico needs harsher penalties for violent convicts, Brandenburg said Saturday that her office is overly taxed by state Supreme Court time limits to complete prosecutions, which may have factored into the recent crime wave.
Veteran Albuquerque police officer Daniel Webster was shot in the face and upper body during a traffic stop on Wednesday, and convicted felon Davon Lymon is accused of the crime.
Local government and law enforcement leaders, including Mayor Richard Berry and police Chief Gorden Eden, have been critical of what they say are lax laws that have allowed people with long and violent criminal histories to escape serious punishment.
Eden said last week that stricter prison sentence enhancements for felons with firearms, gang members and previously convicted criminals are needed.
On Saturday, Brandenburg released a three-page statement that said new case management rules being enforced in Bernalillo County courts are making it difficult to prosecute some cases, hundreds of which have been dismissed. She said the new rules are having the most “impactful” shift on criminal justice in the state in 30 years.
The rules handed down by the state Supreme Court are intended to speed up cases in court and reduce overcrowding at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
“True, both have been accomplished. MDC has more open beds and we’re speeding through our cases like never before,” Brandenburg said. “But at what price?”
She said earlier this year, felony charges that included kidnapping and aggravated battery against Lymon were dismissed because of the case management rules. She said cases like his that are being thrown out are making it a stressful time to work in local law enforcement.
She also said a prior prosecution against Andrew Romero, who is accused of shooting and killing Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benner in May, was affected by the same case management rules.
“Our labs are stressed. Our courts are stressed. And our prosecutors are stressed,” she said. “Indeed, the (case management order) has sped up cases. But it has taxed our law enforcement partners to extreme ends.”