Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's Next? A Trial Or A Plea? Historic Hearing Ends With Murder Charges Against Officers In Boyd Slaying Moving Forward; We Have The Winners And Losers From The Hearing Of The Decade 

(ABQ Journal)
A sensational trial by jury or a quiet plea bargain to make it all go away? That's the big question in the aftermath of Tuesday's historic court decision sending two ABQ police officers to trial on murder charges for the killing of homeless camper James Boyd.

The fatal shooting during a stand-off was captured on police lapel camera video.  It shocked the nation and put APD and the city on the defensive. And that's where they remain after an intense preliminary hearing where a judge found "probable cause" that a crime had been committed and bound the defendants over on murder and lesser charges. We asked former BernCo Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Dinelli for analysis:

Either side now has the option to propose a plea agreement where the state is guaranteed a felony conviction and the defendants try to avoid any and all jail time and seek a suspended sentence. The odds for a plea could be put at 50-50.

Besides murder the officers--one now retired--will be arraigned on voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault and battery charges. Those lesser charges could play a major role in any plea deal that might be struck. If there is no plea agreement and we get a trial by jury, Dinelli says:

A big question is will the defense attorneys become far more aggressive at the trial alleging the defendants were victims of APD mismanagement and APD training failures? Also, will the defendants run the risk and testify at trial and throw themselves upon the mercy of a jury saying they feared for the safety of themselves and others and that their actions were reasonable and justified?


In a story of this magnitude there are clear winners and losers and only our Legal Beagles have them. They start with the winners:

James Boyd--It’s tempting to say that James Boyd is a winner because he may receive some sort of posthumous justice and his shooting death wasn’t rubber-stamped “self-defense” by APD like so many others. Unfortunately, the system failed him and his life ended. The judicial system didn’t fail him. These winners are part of the reason why:

Pro Tem Judge Neil Candelaria--A registered Republican, some wondered if Candelaria would lean toward law enforcement. He didn’t. Candelaria controlled the courtroom from the outset and called the hearing as evenly as any judge could have. Feelings about two APD officers facing murder charges aside, no one can say they didn’t get a fair day in court.

BernCo District Attorney Kari Brandenburg – APD went after Brandenburg and her family hard when she decided to pursue murder charges. Her political stock took a hit and Brandenburg eventually recused herself, but the DA didn’t drop the case. The ruling vindicates her decision to prosecute and represents a rare act of political courage in a city increasingly known for its acquiescence and apathy.

Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn--She picked up where Brandenburg left off, even as other lawyers shied away from the case. McGinn went into the hearing with a reputation as one of the top trial attorneys in the state. Defense attorneys Luis Robles and Sam Bregman also had similar reputations. But even teamed-up against her, the two guys didn’t stand a chance. McGinn has few matches in a courtroom.

APD reform advocates--For years they’ve been standing in front of the City Council during public comment begging that something be done about APD. If those in power had actually listened and taken action--rather than dismissing them as cranks--James Boyd might still be alive, and officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez might not be facing prison.


Now the Legal Beagles bring you the losers list:

The obvious losers are former APD officer Keith Sandy and current officer Dominique Perez who now face second degree murder charges and substantial jail time. But they are far from alone.

APD--Even after the damning report from the Department of Justice regarding excessive force and unjustified police shootings not one APD officer stepped forward and said that things could have been handled differently. Officer after officer took the stand at the hearing and claimed the shooting death of James Boyd was somehow justified. The “new” APD still looks an awful lot like the old APD.

Chief Gordon Eden--He announced immediately after James Boyd was killed that the shooting was “self-defense.” That was before the public saw the video and the chief had to backtrack. At the hearing Eden took the witness stand and announced he couldn’t comment on APD’s report of the Boyd killing because he hadn’t read it and didn’t know its contents. There’s a lot this chief doesn’t know.

Defense Attorney Sam Bregman--He played to the courtroom TV cameras like they were a jury. They weren’t. Judge Candelaria, who Bregman should have been playing to, must have had enough by the end of the hearing. When Bregman tried to grandstand one last time and demanded to know which standard of law Candelaria used to decide if there was probable cause, Candelaria responded, “The standard that you argued for, counsel. What would a reasonable police office in that position have done?” That was a classy smack down.

Mayor Berry--Even though he disappeared to parts unknown for eight days after Boyd was killed and the entire world reacted in horror to the video of Boyd’s shooting, it all took place on Berry’s watch. After nearly six years in office, this is Berry’s APD. Gordon Eden is his police chief and the tens of millions of dollars city taxpayers have shelled out for excessive force lawsuits are all a result of Berry’s leadership, or lack thereof.


Dan Klein
The bottom lines today go to retired APD sergeant and APD watchdog Dan Klein who comments on the murder charges in the Boyd case:

I believe Chief Eden and the APD Command staff is in deep trouble. We just paid out $5 million in a lawsuit regarding the Boyd case. That’s a lot of money with no accountability from those in charge at APD. When this goes to trial I am confident attorneys Bregman and Robles will defend the officers aggressively. Part of this defense is going to be to put the APD Command Staff on trial for creating this situation. If Chief Eden thinks he is going to be able to get on the stand and play dumb like he did at the preliminary hearing, he is going to be in for a surprise. This case is going to put the APD Command on trial, finally. It will expose the mismanagement at APD over the last 7 years. Those in command at APD are just as culpable, they created this mess.

Hey, kids, between the Alligators and the Legal Beagles, we've got you covered.

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