DA to ask state Supreme Court to weigh in on pretrial detention amendment

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County District Attorney wants to keep more people behind bars until they’re tried. He says he doesn’t believe a constitutional amendment that keeps the most dangerous accused criminals behind bars is working. Now, he’s expected to ask the state Supreme Court to step in.

DA Raul Torrez says there are too many obstacles to keep alleged, violent offenders in custody. Wednesday, he was in federal court to ensure one of them doesn’t get out.

Police say Paul Salas is responsible for 47 armed robberies in Albuquerque. Plus, he has a warrant out of Arizona for sex crimes. Yet, Torrez says a District Court judge set bond for him. Now, the feds have charged him with the robberies, too. He appeared in federal court, Wednesday, where a judge ordered he be detained until trial. Torrez says that happens about 90 percent of the time in federal court, but not in state court.

“Clearly there’s a disconnect and the only difference is when you walk across the street from state court to federal court–this is where people get detained and across the street you don’t,” said Torrez.

Torrez says that’s because in federal court, a judge is presented evidence about how dangerous a suspect is, and then is allowed to make a determination. In state district court, however, he says that 10-minute hearing could take seven hours because the judge requires more evidence, including witness testimony. Torrez says that’s why he wants the state Supreme Court to weigh in on how district judges should handle pretrial detention.

Of the 800 felonies filed this year, Torrez asked for pretrial detention 78 times. The judge granted it 26 times.

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