Friday, January 09, 2015

Big Police Shooting Story Of '14 Follows Us Into '15 

A big story of 2014 follows us into 2015. The fatal police shooting of homeless camper James Boyd--a shooting seen literally across the globe thanks to police lapel camera video--will reverberate anew when the fate of the two officers involved in that shooting is resolved. Whatever the decision, it will be among the major news events of the new year.

The person making that decision is on the proverbial hot seat, personally as well as professionally. Longtime Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg raised eyebrows when she indicated there could be murder charges filed against APD officers in connection with the Boyd killing. During her 14 year tenure no officer has been charged with criminal wrongdoing related to the dozens of police shootings which have prompted a Department of Justice civil rights investigation,

Soon after Brandenburg signaled her get tough approach, APD disclosed it had been investigating the DA and her drug-addicted son, announcing there was evidence she had engaged in bribery to help her son avoid criminal charges. The investigation was sent to the state attorney general to review.

One news outlet noted that the investigation had been completed for four months before it was sent to the AG. That has prompted speculation that APD has built a feeble case against the DA to retaliate against her for her attitude over the Boyd shooting. Supporters of the conspiracy theory cite other high profile cases that APD botched, particularly those of former District Court Judge Murdoch and ex-UNM President Garcia.

Brandenburg isn't commenting on APD's motives but she may have found a way to handle this hottest of hot potato cases. Instead of seeking officer indictments in the Boyd case before a grand jury--the traditional course--she may present the case at what's known as a preliminary hearing. In that venue the DA would present the evidence and a district court judge presiding over the hearing would determine if there was enough evidence to take the case to trial.

The preliminary hearing could be a have your cake and eat it too course for Brandenburg. If the judge decides there is not enough evidence to proceed, she could argue she tried her best. If the judge sends the case to trial, she would be able to shed her office's reputation for shirking its duty in pursuing police shooting cases.

By raising the prospect of serious action in the Boyd case Brandenburg has made it more difficult to pursue another option--do nothing. Another option is that Brandenburg and APD make the peace and come up with some sort of plea deal in the Boyd case. Her final decision is expected in the early months of the new year.

That old bromide that he who lives by the crystal ball ends up eating glass can be applied to some of our predictions for 2014 that ran here. Not that we didn't have our share of correct soothsaying, but the crystal ball shattered over our prediction that the state House would not switch control to the Republicans. Our call that a Republican would become Bernalillo County sheriff was also amiss as Democrat Manny Gonzales made history by taking the post. And neither Hillary Clinton or VP Biden campaigned here in 2014 as we predicted.

The Santa Fe New Mexican surprised us by endorsing the Republican Governor for re-election. We correctly predicted the ABQ Journal would give the Guv its nod. We had a near miss when we said turnout for the Dem primary would be below 120,000. It hit 125,000.

Our crystal ball was crystal clear when we predicted Gov. Martinez would launch negative TV attacks as soon as her Democratic rival was nominated in June, that all three NM US House members would be re-elected, that Tim Keller would be elected state auditor and Hector Balderas as attorney general and that Tesla would locate its giant battery factory in Nevada, not here.

We'll holding off on making 2015 predictions for now. Our tongue needs to heal from those glass cuts.

This column also appeared in the ABQ Free Press on newsstands now.

Thanks for stopping by this week. 

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