ALBUQUERQUE, NM — New Mexico has been in the national spotlight for much of this week, including as prosecutors announced charges in the tragedy.
If there is a trial against actor Alec Baldwin, the country will pay attention to New Mexico’s criminal justice system.
We spoke to a criminal defense attorney on Saturday who says while no one is above the law, like it or not, a case of this magnitude changes the way things are going to play out.
“Everyone has known the Baldwin family for generations, right?” said Jenn Burrill, president-elect of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
How does this star power affect a potential jury trial?
“In this case, it’s a slightly different situation because it’s not just the Santa Fe news that’s reporting non-stop, it’s national news. So there’s no other jurisdiction within the state that would probably be fair about not having as much access to the media or seeing it or knowing the facts,” Burrill said.
Burrill says that since “Baldwin” is a household name, a change of location is off the table. But how do you find an impartial jury?
Burrill says when it comes to that, it’s going to be tough.
“The questioning will be very different from what we would normally ask, right? Because we’re one of the standard questions, you know, “Have you seen any media coverage of this?” And so it’s going to be next to impossible to find someone who’s lived under a rock and hasn’t seen media coverage of it,” Burrill said.
That’s when it goes to court. She says official charges must be brought and then pre-trial hearings will be held where criminal charges could be dismissed.
Trial or not, the Rust case has put the spotlight on Santa Fe’s legal system.
“I think it illustrates our capacity issue. We have a capacity problem, of course, you know, especially last year when the governor put a lot more cops on the street. We see now that the prosecutors, the courts and the defense attorneys are unable to deal with it,” Burrill said.
Burrill says the labor shortage is clearer now than ever.
“This is highlighted by the fact that the district attorney went for emergency funding, which was $317,000 in emergency funding, which was less than half of what she actually asked for because she doesn’t have the resources in her office,” she said.
Burrill says the criminal defense community is ready to officially file charges so the trial can actually begin, and what she calls “armchair quarterbacking,” and speculation about the case can end.