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New Mexico court issues opinion in pre-trial detention case

The New Mexico Supreme Court says judges can’t deny a defendant pre-trial release just because that person is accused of a crime that would have qualified for capital punishment had the state still allowed for death sentences.

The court in an opinion released Monday said first-degree murder isn’t currently a constitutionally defined capital offense that would authorize a judge to categorically deny bail.

The opinion comes in the case of Muhammad Ameer, a suspect in a deadly stabbing and robbery last year in Albuquerque.

Prosecutors sought to keep Ameer in custody under the new rules that stemmed from a voter-approved bail reform amendment.

Instead, the district court ordered detention based on a 1912 constitutional provision providing an exception to the right to bail in capital offenses.

The lower court will now have to determine if Ameer should have been held under the new rules.

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