State Supreme Court issues ruling in pre-trial detention debate

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The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday clarified how judges can hold defendants in jail pretrial if they’re charged with committing a murder since the state repealed the death penalty.

The ruling relates to capital crimes, which would be eligible for the death penalty if New Mexico still used it. 

The opinion comes in the case of Muhammad Ameer, a suspect accused of fatally stabbing and robbing a man at an Albuquerque gas station. 

Prosecutors sought to keep Ameer in custody under the new rules approved by voters. 

Back in November 2016, voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing suspects to be held without bond while awaiting trial if a judge believed them to be a danger while out. 

However, instead of relying on the new authority, the court ordered Ameer to be detained based on a 1912 constitutional provision which provided an exception to the right to bail in capital offenses. 

The state Supreme Court reviewed the history of capital offense exception in New Mexico and other states and unanimously held that a capital offense is a crime “for which a stature authorizes imposition of the death penalty.”

There have been a number of questions about the new rule and when it can be applied. 

The Supreme Court continues to provide guidance on the new rule.  

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