District court prosecutes fewer violent crimes

Sharna Johnson

Of all crimes prosecuted last year by the 9th Judicial District courts, the percentage made up by violent crimes was the lowest among all New Mexico district courts.

Data shows that 26 percent of the cases filed in district court were classified as violent crimes, whereas drug and property crimes — at 45 percent — accounted for the highest percentage of remaining cases.

According to the statewide average, 28 percent of felonies filed in New Mexico district courts were violent crimes, with the 13th Judicial District, covering Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia counties, having the highest at 41 percent.

Ninth District Attorney Matt Chandler said the data is positive evidence that his approach of tougher drug enforcement curbs violent crime.

He credited programs targeting methamphetamine and drug interdiction efforts by law enforcement in the district as reason for a reduction in violent crimes.

“These statistics are in large part a credit to the first responders, who can usually defuse a simple dispute before it becomes a violent statistic,” he said. “In addition, our mission at the district attorney’s office is to aggressively prosecute violent crimes with the ultimate goal of providing justice to our victims and with a resolution in mind that will keep our communities safe.”

The Clovis Police Department’s data has reflected similar findings to those reported by the courts.

While the department’s 2010 numbers have not yet been released, in 2009, murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault were down 3 percent.

The most recent data, released by the state Administrative Offices of the Courts, represents cases filed during fiscal year 2010, which was measured from July 2009 to June 2010.

The 9th Judicial District encompasses Curry and Roosevelt counties and represents the eighth-largest population among the state’s 13 districts. Criminal cases filed in district courts are predominately felony-level crimes, with about 13 percent of its caseload being misdemeanors. Meanwhile, county magistrate courts overwhelmingly deal with misdemeanor and traffic cases.

Area district court carried an active criminal case load of 2,789 in fiscal year 2010, and closed 50 percent of cases, according to the report.

The 9th Judicial District conducted 36 trials in fiscal year 2010, representing 3 percent of its caseload, the report said. Statewide, an average of 1 percent of cases were closed through trial.

There are four judges hearing criminal cases in district courts housed at the Curry and Roosevelt county courthouses — Teddy Hartley, Stephen Quinn, Robert Orlik in Clovis and Drew Tatum in Portales — in addition to other types of cases, according to Louis Moore, court executive officer.

Judge David Reeb in Clovis exclusively hears civil and domestic cases, Moore said.