ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico courts are defending a judge’s controversial decision to release Fabian Gonzales, the man facing charges in connection with the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

This comes as more than a hundred people protested in downtown Sunday, demanding Judge Charles Brown to resign. However, court officials said he made the right call. “We are tired of it,” protester George Lane said. “We have had enough.”

Some New Mexicans are fed up with what they are calling a failed court system. “A lot of people are affected by this,” Lane said. “You see tears. You see energy.”

People protested outside of district court in downtown Albuquerque days after Judge Brown’s ruling to free Gonzales from jail leading up to his trial in connection with the death of Martens.

“The state must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is a threat to the community,” Judge Brown said in court Wednesday. “The state did not really address that much.”

Gonzales has been behind bars for three years as the case continues. “You are pissed,” Lane said. “You are mad at the whole system.”

Many on Sunday called on Judge Brown to step down. “Brown, you gotta go,” Lane said.

Amid the backlash, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association are defending Brown’s decision. “Factually, it is a much different case than the public is aware,” Ahmad Assed with the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association said.

He said Gonzales’s prior misdemeanor charges and DUI aren’t enough to hold him.

Gonzales is now facing child abuse charges and tampering with evidence in Victoria’s death.

The DA’s office dismissed the initial rape and murder charges against him last year, stating there is evidence that shows Gonzales was nowhere near the home when Victoria was murdered. “If the DA’s office would have charged this thing at the beginning as a lesser case, there wouldn’t be the emotional tie associated with it,” Assed said.

Still, many are frustrated with what they believe is an injustice for Martens.

“It is time to protect our kids,” Lane said. “That’s it. That’s enough.”

The DA’s office said it plans to appeal the decision which could take up to four weeks.

Gonzales is still in custody until pre-trial services find housing for him, but it is unclear how long that could take.

The Administrative Office of the Courts released the following statement:

“What happened to Victoria Martens is horrific and all New Mexicans want justice in this case.  In every case, a judge’s responsibility is to follow the law – not be swayed by emotion or public sentiment. Judges take seriously their obligation to protect public safety in deciding whether people charged with a crime should be held in jail or remain free until their guilt is determined at trial. In America, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty of a crime. By allowing a person to remain free while awaiting trial, we as a society avoid punishing someone awaiting a determination of guilt – a fundamental principle of our justice system.

What the public hears or reads in news accounts about a crime represents only part of the story. Judges, in contrast, must weigh all the facts presented to the court and apply the law fairly and impartially. Judge Charles Brown last week carried out his responsibilities under the law in considering whether to release Fabian Gonzales, who has remained in jail for three years awaiting trial. The judge ruled that prosecutors failed to prove the defendant is so dangerous that only continued pretrial detention would protect the community. If the district attorney believes the judge erred, he can seek an expedited appeal. The courts are ready to provide the prosecutor and defendant the opportunity to determine at trial whether Mr. Gonzales has criminal responsibility in the horrific murder of Victoria Martens.”

– Director Artie Pepin

Tag: Victoria Martens