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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Fond Farewell For Slain Officer But Politics Lurks, Plus: Crushing It In Cruces; Incumbent Mayor Trashed By Super PAC Thrashes Them, And: That Bail Reform Proposal; It's Complicated 

(Shepard, Journal)
In her teary farewell to slain APD Officer Daniel Webster, Gov. Martinez steered cleared of the political but she did drop a hint of what's to come. Webster, the Governor said at his memorial service in downtown ABQ, was killed by "a very dangerous man."

That one sentence summed up the 2016 political battle she will wage to turn the state Senate from blue to Republican red for the first time in living memory. As one of our Alligators put it:

The message is this, Joe. 'New Mexico is a good state and ABQ is a good city where a lot of people die because of the liberal Democrats who run the State Senate.'

Don't be surprised to see Officer Webster's death exploited directly or indirectly in political advertising next year as the menace of repeat criminal offenders is drilled into the public consciousness and linked to your friendly neighborhood Dem state Senator.

This was a funeral unlike anything the city has seen before. The effectively choreographed event went on for four hours and was broadcast live by two of the network TV stations, an unprecedented amount of time for any event outside of Election Night.

All commentary was laudatory and often downright gushing--not only of Webster but of APD. If you were not from here you would never have an inkling that the city is experiencing a violent crime wave or that its police department is operating under a Dept. of Justice reform agreement because of its over-the-top use of force. Webster's untimely death swept that under the rug, at least for the time being.

All of the coverage played into the meme mentioned above: That everything here is really okay under Susana and Berry, except we have some bad guys who are repeat criminals and the liberal, Hispanic Democrats won't put them behind bars.

And the Guv will have plenty of money to push that theme. Right after the funeral:

Gov. Martinez traveled to Austin, Texas, today on an overnight trip with a dual focus on touting New Mexico’s economy and raising money for her political committee.

CRUSHING IT IN CRUCES

Election Night (Sun-News)
Longtime Dem Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima crushed it last night, handily defeating two foes and securing a third, four year term with 51 percent of the vote, a win of 18 percent over his closest rival. Turnout was 19 percent of the registered voters.

And talk about ugly.

A super PAC financed by SE NM oil interests and whose treasurer is the brother of GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce put out scurrilous last minute literature about Ken and his wife. Real garbage pile stuff that dated back over 20 years.

Even though Congressman Pearce is not now affiliated with the Goal WestPAC, he was one of its founders and having his brother on it is too close for a congressman to be to the stink. Miyagishma was the big winner last night and Steve Pearce, you were the big loser.

DAM CRACK

Is it the first crack in the dam from the Martinez administration over the prospect of state driver's licenses being declared invalid by the Feds? GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco, a fave of the Guv's machine, suddenly proposes a compromise that drops his and the Guv's long-standing demand that driver's licenses for undocumented workers be repealed.

It shouldn't be surprising. If New Mexicans can't use their licenses to gain access to federal installations or to board an airplane, the nation isn't going to look at the Legislature. They will be looking at the Governor and wondering why it is happening under her watch.  This may be one of the rare cases where the Guv can't pin the blame on the Dems.

IT'S COMPLICATED

We know the proposed constitutional amendment on reforming bail laws in NM is supported by the Republican Governor and Republican ABQ Mayor as well as the ABQ newspaper which also supports them. But the measure is being sponsored in the state Senate by liberal Dem Peter Wirth of Santa Fe. We predicted its defeat in the Senate during the next legislative session, but maybe not? This Roundhouse veteran  says it's complicated:

A hearing on this proposal took place last week at the Legislature’s Courts Corrections and Justice Committee.  Your blog suggests the amendment is a get tough on crime initiative, and that it would therefore meet resistance in the Senate.

While it is being characterized as a way for judges to deny bail to serious criminals, this spin won’t work with those who understand criminal law. Judges already keep risky criminals in jail by setting impossibly high bail, which they know a defendant cannot post. We pretend this doesn’t happen because this would violate the constitutional notion that everyone is entitled to bail out while awaiting trial. But it happens every day and has for decades.

The amendment appears on the surface to allow judges to do what they are already doing, but now to do so with constitutional authority. In reality though, the amendment would add new requirements and a finding by “clear and convincing evidence” before a judge could deny bail. This is the highest legal burden of proof there is in the law. To apply this authority a judge would have to schedule and conduct evidentiary hearings with witnesses and probably expert testimony, to hold someone without bail. The judge’s decision would then be subject to an expedited appeal through potentially two levels of appellate courts, and eventually the finding would go to the NM Supreme Court (more on this).

In application this amendment would make it harder for judges to hold the most serious and violent offenders. While judges now just set a high bail, the amendment would require evidence, hearings and appeals. This would involve a great deal more work from prosecutors and defense counsel to meet the highest burden of proof, all to accomplish what judges already do now.

Most important, the proposed amendment also has a second component, which so far is coming in completely under the radar. This second part provides that nobody can be held in detention because of an inability to meet bail for financial reasons. So while the amendment is only being promoted as tough on crime, in reality it would mean far fewer people in prison. This is good goal we should support, but we should be up front and embrace progressive initiatives instead of wrapping them in a conservative agenda.

Any persons held without bail could eventually come to the Supreme Court, and Justice Daniels made it clear at the hearing that his Court should ultimately decide who should be held. This is a progressive and civil liberties initiative, but only as long as the Court remains liberal. A conservative Supreme Court would more likely uphold more detentions. Courts in conservative communities will more likely hold accused persons without bail, and in liberal communities less likely. One of the criticisms at the hearing was that the Supreme Court Justices should not be legislating.

Predicting how this will fare in the session is going to be very interesting. Generally liberals should support it, and conservatives should not. But only if they understand the law as well as the Justices and Sen. Wirth. Your blog suggests the Senate would defeat it and the House support. I think we will see many efforts to amend the proposal. Be careful you don’t get spun on this one, or with your early prediction. Even if this passes the Legislature the voters will decide this on a ballot. So you’ll be hearing and writing about it a great deal.

We learned a lot there and will keep tabs on the debate. Voters would decide the amendment at next November's election.

THE BOTTOM LINES

A reader writes:

Thanks for hammering away at City Hall et. al. It's truly amazing how deep the hole has gotten with no one who claims to be in charge trying to find a way out. The political vacuum and the community funk may yet overwhelm all that's good here, if it hasn't already. When the peasants do revolt, it's going to be ugly.

Maybe someone will run for office on the slogan: "Calling All Peasants!"

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