Public Defenders

Career prosecutor appointed to oversee public defenders creates stir in New Mexico

  • Print.

The defense bar and some lawmakers are bristling at New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez’s selection of a career prosecutor to sit on the state’s new Public Defender Commission.

The choice of Susan Riedel is a “slap in the face” to defendants who can’t afford private lawyers, said Barbara Mandel, president of the state Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

The Santa Fe New Mexican notes that Riedel previously worked as Martinez’s deputy when the now governor was the district attorney in Las Cruces. Martinez later appointed her to a judgeship, a role she kept until losing the seat during the last general election.

“It would have been hard for the governor to appoint anyone less appropriate for this particular position,” Mandel is quoted saying. “Here is someone who has been advocating against criminal defendants her entire professional life, except for the short time she was on the bench.”

Martinez has said through a spokesman that Riedel is qualified for the 11-member commission. The commission is to oversee a new independent Public Defender’s Office. Language in the statute requires commission members to have “significant experience in the legal defense of criminal or juvenile justice cases” and to have “demonstrated a commitment to quality indigent defense representation or to working with and advocating for the population served by the department,” the New Mexican reports.

Related coverage:

Las Cruces Sun-News (Op-Ed): “Our View: Riedel does not qualify for public defender board”

Albuquerque Journal: “Legislators target Martinez appointee”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.