Judge draws outrage after using woke bail reform group’s “safety tool” to free suspect in two murder cases
By Cassie B. // Nov 07, 2022

A teenager suspected in two murders has been set free on an ankle monitor after a judge used a "safety tool" from a bail reform group to determine he somehow does not pose a risk to society.

Adrian Avila, 18, was charged as one of four people who murdered 17-year-old Donnie Brandon in 2020. Brandon was shot multiple times in the head, chest and neck at Sandia Vista Park.

He was also charged in the 2021 killing of former corrections officer Elias Otero. He and an 18-year-old accomplice, Anna Bella Dukes, have both been charged with murder, armed robbery, conspiracy, tampering with evidence and kidnapping after using a social media app to lure Otero's brother as part of a robbery attempt.

The pair held Otero's brother at gunpoint and drove him to his home in his own car, where they instructed him to have Elias Otero meet them with additional money. When Elias stepped out of the home and threatened the suspects, Avila shot and killed him.

Despite murdering two people, Albuquerque district judge Stanley Whitaker ruled that Avila did not pose a threat to the community and allowed him to walk free with a GPS ankle monitor. He based this on a risk assessment with the Arnold Tool, a system developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation that seeks to "eliminate unjust pretrial detention and create a justice system where jail is only used when absolutely necessary." The Arnold Tool and other bail reform measures have been under fire recently after suspects that were deemed safe to release went on to commit even more severe crimes.

The tool uses a scale that runs from 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest threat. Avila scored a 2 out of 7 on the scale for being a threat to society and a score of 1 on the scale for failing to show up for trial.

Police chief, district attorney disagree with judge's assessment

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina expressed his outrage over the judge’s use of the tool to decide Avila's release from prison. In a statement, he said: "This suspect is at the root of the gun violence we're seeing in Albuquerque and the record number of homicides. Our officers and detectives are doing everything possible to investigate and arrest the people who are terrorizing our neighborhoods committing robberies and homicides with stolen guns."

He added: "At the same time, we are getting reports of violent suspects cutting off their ankle monitors and left to roam the streets until we re-arrest them. This is beyond upsetting. This jeopardizes the safety of our community, including our officers."

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez pointed out that the decision also marks the first time a defendant who has been accused of two separate murders has been allowed to await trial outside of a jail cell. He told ABC affiliate KOAT: "We've made the decision already to file an appeal of that order and seek review from an appellate court and ask that Mr. Avila be remanded into custody pending outcome of not just one, but two separate murder cases."

The mother of one of the victims, Alicia Otero, is worried that another family will have to suffer the pain of losing a loved one with Avila free while awaiting trial. She said: "I feel another family is going to have to go through the pain that we're going through by losing their loved one also. Every day we wake up. I don't eat, I don't sleep. All I think about is what it took from us. He took my baby."

What kind of woke scale gives a person who has murdered two people a score of 2 out of 7 for being a threat to society? Is the judge willing to accept responsibility if this double murder suspect hurts or kills someone while he is free? Incidents like this are a reminder of the many ways the criminal justice system is failing and putting society in danger.

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