Friday’s Top Stories

Friday’s Five Facts

[1] Public defenders say there’s a severe shortage of attorneys in New Mexico – The state’s public defender’s office is pleading with lawmakers to help with a massive staff shortage. According to the Law Office of the Public Defender, New Mexico has only 33% of public defense attorneys it needs to handle adult and juvenile cases. The department is asking lawmakers for an 18% budget increase which would amount to about $12 million. A study done by the American Bar Association revealed the public defender’s office needs almost three times the amount of lawyers it has to handle its caseload. Each of the 13 district attorneys’ in New Mexico has to put in their own budget request, as well as the district courts. Who are all expected to ask for an increase in budgets for staff and prosecutors. 

[2] Albuquerque man accused of killing church security guard to stay in jail – Mark Ward, the man accused of killing a church security guard last week, will remain locked up until trial. Ward is facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Daniel Bourne. Police say Bourne was hit with a truck in the Calvary Church parking lot and left for dead in a nearby arroyo. Prosecutors said with Ward’s violent criminal history, he should remain behind bars. Ward’s lawyers argued there are too many unknown variables in the case and even police don’t know what happened. Ultimately, the judge agreed with the prosecutors.

[3] Dry Friday, rain chances return this weekend – Drier air will dominate the forecast for a majority of New Mexico today before two separate systems combine to bring a lot more moisture into the Desert Southwest by the weekend and continuing through early next week. More widespread rain is expected Saturday afternoon and evening. Luckily the morning hours are expected to be calm and quiet for the 50th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, it’s the evening hours that remain a bit more uncertain with the potential for rain.

[4] ABQ restaurants bracing for Balloon Fiesta tourists amid staffing shortages – With Balloon Fiesta kicking off Saturday, that means it is the busiest time of year for restaurants, but staffing shortages are still plauging the industry. Like many restaurants, the historic Church Street Cafe does not have enough workers to serve all of the incoming tourists. During a normal Balloon Fiesta the restaurant says they have around 60 employees; this year they say they have just 35. The New Mexico Restaurant Association encourages people to be patient with restaurant staffs.

[5] Stolen $160M painting found in New Mexico returned to Arizona museum – A painting that was stolen from it’s frame nearly 40 years ago is finally getting returned back to the very same wall it was stolen from. Willem De Kooning’s 1955 painting “Woman Ochre” is considered a masterpiece of American abstract impressionism. The $160 million painting travelled to galleries all around the world, but it was stolen in 1985. The case went cold until 2017, when the painting turned up in Silver City, New Mexico. There were never any charges brought for the theft. Beginning October 8, “Woman-Ochre” can be seen at the University of Arizona Museum of Art.