After a lengthy debate, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill in a party-line vote aimed at expanding New Mexico’s current three strikes law. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the panel that he spent time in drafting the bill and making sure it wouldn’t present similar problems as similar laws did in other states. He acknowledged that his bill was not a universal fix to the ongoing crime problem in New Mexico, but that it is a start. “I know this is not a silver bullet,” Pacheco told the committee. But, he said, “It’s one step in a larger group of things we have to address.”
Pacheco pointed out to the committee that no one has ever been charged or convicted under the current three strikes law.
A bill that would allow judges to deny bail on certain offenders has passed its first House committee on party lines. Sponsored by state Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, the measure would allow voters to approve or reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would let judges deny bail to offenders to “protect the safety of any other person or the community.”
The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee passed the bill on a 4-3 vote. Jeff Clayton, a policy director for the American Bail Coalition, said the bill would only affect the “worst of the worst.”
“We’re talking about somebody who is dangerous who is going to flee and be dangerous,” Clayton said. Among supporters of the bill were members of the bail bond industry, the state Department of Public Safety and Julie Benner, widow of Rio Rancho officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner. Most who opposed the bill mentioned their support of a similar measure by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
In a crowded conference room in the mayor’s office last November, reporters and police officers gathered to see Republican lawmakers and Mayor Richard Berry discuss their plans for combating repeat criminal behavior.A visibly emotional Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the room of his intention to toughen New Mexico’s three strikes law. “This piece of legislation is very personal to me,” Pacheco said. Pacheco, a former law enforcement officer, told reporters that he was personally affected by a number of violent, high profile crimes committed earlier in the year. In May 2015, Rio Rancho Police officer Gregg Benner was shot and killed while on duty. In October, Albuquerque Police Officer Daniel Webster was shot and later died from his injuries.
The New Mexico Attorney General introduced a team that will review the state’s criminal justice system, particularly violent crimes, and identify solutions for problems they find. The group, called the Multidisciplinary Violent Crime Review Team, was revealed on Wednesday in Albuquerque and is made up of state and local leaders. Balderas warned the team and members of the public, “this is not going to be an easy process.”
The idea to create the group came after Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benner was fatally shot earlier this year by a repeat offender. The first phase will include a look into this case. Balderas called the shooting “a breaking point for the general public.”
Julie Benner added that she wants to see changes to the criminal justice system in the state.