Last week District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield removed the Albuquerue district attorney, Kari Branbenburg, from the state's murder case against two police officers who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd last March in an incident caught on lapel video. The next month the Department of Justice completed a multi-year investigation, finding a pattern and practice of civil rights abuse at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
In 2012, Brandenburg discontinued the practice of sending police shootings to grand juries. There had been 24 police shootings in the two years prior, 17 fatal, with none ruled unjustified. Sandy Keith and Dominique Perez, charged with the murder of Boyd, where the first officers charged with a crime related to a police shooting since then.
But the removal hinge on a conflict of interest based not on the prosecutor's office's working relationship with the APD, on whom it relies for cases to prosecute, but on accusations made against the DA by police. KRQE reports:
Attorneys for those cops [charged with murder] wanted Brandenburg to give the case to another prosecutor, citing a conflict of interest. The decision to ban Brandenburg and her office, hinges on a case that Albuquerque police forwarded to the attorney general, accusing the district attorney of attempting to bribe victims of burglaries allegedly committed by her son.
Brandenburg denied the accusations, saying her office can fairly handle the case.
The judge said media coverage of that case could create the public perception that Brandenburg had a conflict of interest in filing murder charges against Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez.
"There was a strong appearance that she was prosecuting this for other reasons other than a crime has been committed," Sam Bregman, Attorney for Keith Sandy, told News 13.
Today Brandeburg appointed a private attorney, Randi McGinn, as special prosecutor after asking multiple state prosecutors. Via the Associated Press:
During a news conference Thursday, Brandenburg announced that her office had looked far and wide, asking the other 12 district attorney across the state, the attorney general, and some other private attorneys if they would prosecute the officers. Most could not do it because of resource limitations and other commitments. Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote back that his office "shares some of the same conflicts that caused" Hadfield to disqualify Brandenburg.
McGinn wasn't at the press conference but Brandenburg read a statement from her that said "every Albuquerque citizen, whether a homeless man in the mountains or a police officer patrolling the streets, should be allowed the due process protections afforded by the same law."
The decision to remove Brandenburg does not affect the murder charges but Perez's attorney said the cop was "ecstatic" Brandenburg wasn't prosecuting him. A status conference is set for May 27.