AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to monitor crime victim’s rights. Torrez held a press conference to discuss three policies he hopes the legislature will address in the upcoming special session. Torrez also sent a letter to Gov. […]

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to monitor crime victim’s rights.

Torrez held a press conference to discuss three policies he hopes the legislature will address in the upcoming special session. Torrez also sent a letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham outlining his priorities. 

Lujan Grisham told NM Political Report in an email that “while we are interested in as many ideas that improve public safety for New Mexicans as possible, we have already laid the groundwork for the bills we’ve proposed for the special session.” 

“If the Attorney General had these ideas during the recent 30-day legislative session, we were not made aware of them. We agree that tools such as Rapid DNA analysis for law enforcement are effective investments and should be incorporated in the budgeting process,” Lujan Grisham said in her emailed response. 

Torrez said during the press conference that he supports revisiting comprehensive public safety legislation that failed to pass in the 2024 legislature. He said he hopes that interim legislative committees will revisit it and that legislators will file similar public safety bills in the 60-day session in 2025. But, he said, the special session in July is not the time to revisit those larger public safety policies because the time involved in a special session is too short. 

“I continue to believe these policies can and should be included in a comprehensive approach but now is not the time to dig into those larger issues in the upcoming session,” Torrez said. 

The three legislative priorities Torrez laid out are a rapid DNA analysis tool for law enforcement, clarifying a law to ensure that pre-release information is accessible to the public and providing funding for the crime victim’s unit housed in the New Mexico Department of Justice’s Office.

Torrez said that because of the backlog of DNA evidence at the state crime lab, investigators can wait as long as a year for DNA analysis to be returned. 

Farmington Police Department Chief Steve Hebbe spoke during the press conference and said that San Juan County Police have purchased a rapid DNA analysis tool for law enforcement but his department is one of a very few in the state that can afford such a tool. He said it can help with solving crimes.

Pretrial Detention Reform Advocate Angel Alire also spoke during the press conference. Her son, Devon Heyborne, was killed in 2021 by a man, Devin Munford, who had received prerelease for an unrelated crime. Munford wore a GPS monitoring bracelet during his prerelease but he broke the conditions of his prerelease 113 times before he killed Heyborne, Alire said. Munford was convicted of Heyborne’s murder earlier this year.

According to the letter sent to Lujan Grisham’s office, which Torrez’s office sent to media, if the legislature affirms that the law allows for public records inspection of how pre-release information is used then there will be accountability over whether prerelease is being applied as intended and the court cannot “cloak pretrial services under a veil of secrecy.”

“It’s so important to demand transparency and hold them accountable,” Alire said. 

The Office of the Crime Victim Advocate will be a unit within the NMDOJ Office. Lauren Rodriguez, spokesperson for NMDOJ, told NM Political Report that the unit will go forward with or without funding from the legislature in the special session. 

“We hope the Legislature and the Governor will see the value of the office of the crime victim advocate. If not, we will still seek to establish the office,” Rodriguez said by email. 

The new unit will receive complaints from crime victims and ensure the court complies with victim’s constitutional rights and the Victims of Crime Act. The unit will investigate allegations of violations, offer training and pursue legal remedies to protect victims when necessary, according to the letter sent to Lujan Grisham’s office.

Linda Atkinson, executive director of New Mexico Victims’ Rights Project, also spoke during the press conference. She said one pitfall for sexual assault victims is that they can be asked to go through a pretrial interview during which attorneys can ask about the victim’s sexual history. 

“It’s time we came into the twenty-first century and treated victims with dignity and respect,” Atkinson said.

Update: Added a statement from the governor’s office.

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