Frustration over courts' risk assessment tool grows

Meg Hilling
September 05, 2017 08:23 PM

FARMINGTON, N.M. -- The list of those in leadership frustrated with the risk assessment application known Arnold Tool is getting longer.


The San Juan County district attorney voiced concern about the tool following an officer-involved shooting in Farmington. In recently obtained courtroom audio, a San Juan County prosecutor can be heard asking that William Wilson not be released on Aug. 2 on charges of burglary and larceny.

"I'm willing to release him on an unsecured appearance bond of $25,000," Judge John A Dean Jr. said.

After evaluating Wilson with the Arnold Tool, which looks at past crimes and flight risk, the judge ruled differently. Later in August, Wilson died in a shootout with state police that left one officer injured.

San Juan County District Attorney Rick Tedrow doesn't agree with the tool that let Wilson walk out of jail.

"It either needs to be a pretty good rewrite of the rules and procedures or, at that point, we need to look at another constitutional amendment to fix the situation we are in right now," Tedrow said.

It's a frustration echoed by the San Juan County sheriff and New Mexico State Police chief.

"I think we are just at a point now where there is a complete lack of uniformity that's allowing anyone, whether it's prosecutors, defense attorneys or even judges, to clearly go in and understand what needs to be done," Tedrow said."

But Tedrow said it's a mistake to direct any frustrations over the new tool at the bench.

"A lot of people are really upset with judges on these decisions. I don't think that is necessarily where the blame needs to be," he said. "I think it is on the rules themselves. I think the judges' hands have been tied to where they have no more discretion."

The system was supposed to protect Wilson's right to remain free while awaiting trial. But now, Wilson will never get his day in court. 


Meg Hilling

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