September 24, 2015

AGO fires back at Duran’s request for more time to prepare

Joe Gratz


Earlier this week, New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s attorney filed a request to extend court deadlines, saying preparing for an upcoming hearing will be overwhelming to her and her client. A response from the Attorney General’s office  argued that the request was unnecessary and would harm Duran’s right to a speedy trial.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Attorney Erlinda Johnson is representing Duran in a case that alleges a long list of money laundering and fraud charges related to moving campaign funds to personal accounts. Johnson wrote in her request that she needs more time to comb through the evidence that the New Mexico Attorney General’s office presented to the court. She argued that the Attorney General’s office has not made all of the documents available for discovery.

“Contrary to the Attorney General’s filings, discovery is not complete. Indeed, the defense needs the missing discovery in order to properly make challenges to the evidence in this case and the manner in which it was obtained,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson went on to say that Duran’s constitutional rights would be violated if her legal counsel was not given enough time to properly defend her.

“If counsel is not afforded adequate time to prepare motions and to prepare to challenge the State’s case during the preliminary hearing, Ms. Duran will practically be denied her Constitutional guarantee to effective representation,” she wrote in the request.

Right to speedy trial

The Attorney General’s office also raised concerns about Duran’s rights and questioned whether a delay would benefit Duran personally or her attorney. In the response to Johnson, the Attorney General’s office wrote that if the court dates are delayed, Duran’s right to a speedy trial may be compromised.

“At the very least, this court should inquire into whether Duran personally agrees to the delay and whether the delay is truly sought for Duran’s benefit rather than her attorney’s,” they wrote.

The Attorney General’s Office also argued that Duran’s attorney does not need more time because the upcoming court date is a hearing and not for an actual trial.

“Defense counsel frames her request (i.e., the necessity for complete discovery and independent investigation of facts) as though she is preparing for trial, rather than a preliminary hearing,” wrote the Assistant Attorneys General.

Further, they argued, the preliminary hearing is aimed at doing something different than an actual trial.

They wrote that “The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists to proceed. The rules, which incorporate extremely short time limits, are built around this standard.”

“Duran’s motion appears premised on the idea that preparation must be as thorough for preliminary hearing as it is for trial. This is mistaken.”

Wait ‘til next year?

In her initial request, Johnson asked the court to change both the deadline to file motions and the scheduled hearing date.

The current deadline to file motions is October 5 and the preliminary hearing scheduled for October 3.

If Johnson’s request is granted, Duran’s preliminary hearing would not happen until next year.

The next court date for Duran is scheduled for October 23 when the court will hear motions filed by each side.

Duran is facing more than just legal problems. On Monday, a special investigatory committee in the state House of Representatives is scheduled to begin looking impeachment proceedings against Duran.