Posted at: 03/21/2013 7:53 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4
The 2nd Judicial District Attorney announced changes to the process that decide if police shooting cases should bring criminal charges.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said her office has a backlog of police shooting cases, some dating back a few years.
Everything will be handled internally and the goal is to have all reports out within 6 months, and make the information easily available to the public, Brandenburg said.
Just this week, a New Mexico State Police officer shot and killed Kendall Carroll, 21, during a SWAT standoff.
It is another case that will be added to the nearly 20 other cases pending review in the district attorney's office.
"We in the district attorney's office are making the decision on officer-involved shooting cases as to what the ultimate outcome should be," Brandenburg said. "We are exclusively involved in deciding whether or not there's probable cause to pursue criminal charges."
Since January, an investigative grand jury would hear these cases and decide whether or not an officer was justified in shooting.
That won’t be the case anymore.
"That's one of the reasons why we used the grand jury process," Brandenburg said. "We had 12 people, who didn't have a dog in the fight, review our decision that there was probable cause; now we don't have that... we don't have citizens weighing in."
The formal in-house review process comes with significant limitations of power.
The DA’s office will not be able to subpoena records, call on witnesses, take testimony under oath or create a court record.
In other words, if there is more information the district attorney's office wants for a case, they cannot file a subpoena. If investigators want to talk to someone and that person refuses, there is nothing they can do about it either, Brandenburg said.
"We're doing something now, to my knowledge, that has never been done in the history of Bernalillo county,” she said.
Under the grand jury process, no officer shooting was ever ruled unjustified.
As cases are completed, they will also be posted on the district attorney's office website.