(Editor's note: This is the first of three columns by Dan Klein explaining just how monumentally APD screwed up in falsely accusing 17-year-old Gisell Estrada of murder. This isn't the first time that APD has jailed an innocent person. It has got to stop. The other columns will run on Tuesday and Wednesday.)
- We can now add Gisell Estrada, a 17-year-old girl with no criminal history that we know of, to the ever-growing list of people falsely accused and jailed by APD.
- The DA and the judge tore Gisell from the calmness of her normal life and placed her into a cell. They locked her up with people accused of murder, rape and robbery. They placed her into hell on earth, an innocent 17-year-old girl.
- If the detective had done his job, if the DA had done her job, if the judge had done his job, Gisell would never have been locked up. This is what should have everyone furious.
- The entire system failed Gisell Estrada, as it has failed many others. It’s time to hold everyone involved in this mess accountable. Mayor Keller? Voters? Dr. James Ginger? It’s on you.
BY DAN KLEIN
My God people, the Albuquerque Police Department locked up a totally innocent child for murder! When will this stop? When will all of you get pissed off enough to demand change? If you don't demand change, be prepared that the next innocent person put into jail will be you or your children.
So was it incompetence, laziness, or both, that put an innocent Albuquerque child into the hell of jail? Who is to blame for this outrage? Will those who put an innocent child in jail face any consequences?
It’s Albuquerque, so of course not. Albuquerque, where innocent citizens have languished in jail and those who put them there can continue their lives and careers like nothing happened. Albuquerque, where it seems the criminal justice system (judges, prosecutors and police) couldn’t give a tinkers’ damn about incarcerating innocent people.
We can now add Gisell Estrada, a 17-year-old girl with no criminal history that we know of, to the ever-growing list of the falsely accused. Her crime? Murder. Why was she locked up? Because an Albuquerque police detective mistakenly identified her through a stunningly inept investigation. The detective then proceeded to obtain an arrest warrant, which was reviewed and approved by an 2nd Judicial District assistant district attorney and then reviewed and approved by a 2nd Judicial District court judge.
When Gisell found out that there was a warrant for her arrest she contacted a public defender and turned herself in to police. Because APD had obtained permission from the court to seal all documents, neither Gisell nor her attorney were told why she was being arrested. Gisell's attorney then advised her to invoke her constitutional right not to speak to the police. This was the right thing to do as the attorney expected Gisell to be in front of judge quickly and at that time they would know why she was arrested and be able to prove her innocence and be released, but that is not what happened.
The district attorney's office immediately filed an expedited motion for pretrial detention against Gisell. This postponed her appearance before a judge. Gisell sat in juvenile jail for six days (November 8 to November 14). APD, the DA and the judge tore Gisell from the calmness of her normal life and placed her into a cell. They locked her up with people accused of murder, rape and robbery. They placed her into hell on earth, an innocent 17-year-old girl.
When did the detective realize his mistake? When one of the other accused participants in the murder told him that you have the wrong person.
If the detective had done his job, if the DA had done her job, if the judge had done his job, Gisell would never have been locked up. This is what should have everyone furious.
APD, through PIO Gilbert Gallegos, in a statement to cover the ass of APD, blames Gisell and APS:
APS employee’s mistake left innocent teen jailed for murder (Albuquerque Journal headline)
Her (Gisell Estrada) refusal to speak left the detective with no choice but to book her. “This could’ve been avoided had she (Gisell Estrada) been able to give a statement,” Gallegos told the Journal.
Now we can add Gallegos to an ever-growing list on incompetent people involved in Gisell case. The stupidity of his comments should have been cause for APD Chief Mike Geier to immediately step in, but as we have seen in the past, Geier is always absent when crisis hits APD. He has been absent a lot.
Michael Patrick, district attorney spokesman, comes with this ridiculous statement:
“They have to follow the lead of the police investigation and were 'under the impression' they had the right person.”
Patrick has it so wrong that he should join Gallegos in issuing an apology. The DA is not supposed to “follow the lead of the police investigation.” The DA is supposed to act as an independent reviewer of the police investigation to ensure innocent people are not charged. Haven’t the colossal mistakes in the Victoria Martens and the Jayden Silver Chavez murders taught the DA anything? Blindly following the lead of the police is not what the DA is supposed to do and will ultimately lead to innocent people being locked up.
The DA and the judge are the check and balance to protect the innocent from being falsely accused by police. In Gisell's case the DA failed twice. First when a DA approved her arrest warrant that did not satisfy the minimum standards for probable cause. Second when another DA didn’t review the arrest warrant and went ahead and filed for preventative detention. Aren’t the attorneys in the DA's office required to read and comprehend police reports? Don’t they know the basics of probable cause? Are they just a rubber stamp?
I am stunned that the district court judge—his scribble is not readable so I am not sure who it was—signed an arrest warrant for Gisell when the detective clearly did not state how and why he was accusing her of being involved in this murder.
The entire system failed Gisell Estrada, as it has failed many others. It’s time to hold everyone involved in this mess accountable. Mayor Keller? Voters? Dr. James Ginger? It’s on you.