Two Democrats are vying for the First Judicial District's open district attorney seat, vacated by current District Attorney Marco Serna, who is running for Congress. The district attorney is the head prosecutor for District Court in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties.

Only registered major party candidates can vote in the June 2 primary election, and since health officials encourage voters to ask for absentee ballots by mail, many ballots are already on the way. No other major party candidates are on the ballot for this race, so the winner takes all.

In our time-honored election tradition, SFR quizzed the candidates on how aspects of the justice system work as well as current events. As always, the candidates promised not to turn to Google, smartphones, companions, or any other source besides their own knowledge to answer. Read Pop Quiz features on other local races at sfreporter.com/elections.

Questions

  1. How does the Santa Fe DA’s office review deadly shootings by police officers? 
  2. When was the last police shooting in Santa Fe where someone was killed by a police officer and what was the victim’s name?
  3. Name the criteria for the district attorney’s pre-prosecution diversion program?
  4. What is the name of the virtual assistant on the NMCourts website and what language does she speak?

Answers

  1. The case goes to a panel of outside prosecutors to review and makes a recommendation for punishment for the officers, if any. However, the district attorney has the final say.
  2. Anthony Benavidez, July 19, 2017.
  3. The defendant must meet the minimum eligibility criteria established by statute 31-16-A-4 NMSA, 1978 Comp. (1984 Repl. Pamp.) and as modified by the district attorney for the First Judicial District. The current charge against the defendant must be for a nonviolent felony offense. A defendant charged with arson, a sex offense or residential burglary will generally not be considered for diversion. The offense must not involve the substantial possession of a controlled substance. A defendant charged with drug trafficking will not be considered. The defendant must have no prior felony convictions or significant criminal record and may not have previously participated in a first offender diversion program.
  4. Clara speaks Navajo, Spanish and English.

Mary Carmack-Altwies

Mary Carmack-Altwies is an assistant district attorney in the First Judicial District, and her work history includes both time as a public defender and private criminal defense attorney. Her focus includes addressing the rape kit backlog and offering more diversion and intervention programs for low-level offenders.

  1. When they come in, the cases are referred to the district attorney, Marco, and he reviews them and sends them to the ad hoc committee of other DAs from around the state for their input or their decision.
  2. 2018. And I don’t remember the victim’s name off the top of my head.
  3. It has to be a first time offense. It has to be a low level, nonviolent offense. They have to have a minimal misdemeanor history. They have to be willing to admit to the crime, although that is not published anywhere. You have to fill out a packet where you admit to your past criminal history and past work history, including even juvenile history. It’s not used against you, but you do have to fill out that packet and it has to be notarized and then you have to go in and meet with the director of the program and have a formal interview. Usually your attorney accompanies you and then you have to be accepted after that interview.
  4. I use a different system, so I’m not sure what her name is, but I know she speaks English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and those are the only ones that I know of that I’ve ever had to use.

Scott Fuqua

Scott Fuqua is an attorney in Santa Fe who previously worked in the New Mexico Attorney General's office under both Patricia Madrid and Gary King. Among his goals is to establish a system wherein the victims and perpetrators of only certain crimes discuss together why the crime happened and its consequences.

  1. My understanding is that those shootings are sent to a panel that consists of representatives of other district attorney’s offices. That panel then reviews the facts of the shooting, makes a recommendation and if the recommendation is one that is accepted and well, if the recommendation is one that is accepted that the appropriate district attorney is typically not the one in the district in which the shooting occurred, or at least I should say, not the district in which the police officer who was involved in the shooting works, a different district attorney would proceed with the case.
  2. That I do not know the answer to.
  3. Again, as I understand it, in order to be in the pre-prosecution diversion program, you have to be involved in some sort of nonviolent crime and you have to demonstrate, and I will tell you, I don’t know exactly what the criteria are that the court applies. But you have to demonstrate some sort of an amenability to the program. Obviously a component of that is some demonstration that you need the pre-prosecution diversion, that the services are appropriate because you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction that the pre-prosecution diversion program can potentially address.
  4. I didn’t know there was a virtual system on the NM Courts website, whenever I access it, I’m always accessing the case look-up function. I don’t know what language she speaks, but I tell you at a minimum, she should speak English and Spanish, certainly in this district. And if she doesn’t speak at least English and Spanish, she needs to learn.