ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A judge on Friday ruled that a jury can be told limited information about a homeless man's prior arrest in the trial of a former and current officer facing murder charges in his death.
State District Judge Neil Candelaria said he will allow evidence that officers were briefed that James Boyd had previously been arrested for attacking police before he was fatally shot during a standoff in March 2014 in the Sandia Mountains foothills. But, he won't allow the jury to hear details of Boyd's criminal past.
Video of the shooting showed the 38-year-old Boyd, who authorities said suffered from schizophrenia, appearing to surrender before Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy opened fire.
Attorneys for the officers say their clients did nothing wrong.
Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn said if Boyd's past wasn't known at the time of the shooting, it shouldn't be allowed in court. "Where would it end," McGinn said. "We'd be prosecuting James Boyd for all the bad things he had done in his life."
The shooting sparked angry protests around the city, including a demonstration that forced authorities to use tear gas on protesters in downtown Albuquerque last year.
The Albuquerque Police Department and the U.S. Justice Department recently entered an agreement to overhaul the force following a scathing report on officers' use of force. Albuquerque police had been under scrutiny for more than 40 police shootings since 2010.
In addition, Candelaria ruled that information about Albuquerque police training policies would be allowed in court and other officers could testify about the scene at the shooting.
Friday's proceeding is a preview for a preliminary hearing set to begin Monday to determine if there is enough evidence for the officers to face murder charges. That hearing is expected to last all of next week.
Perez, an Albuquerque SWAT team member, and Sandy, a former detective, are the first officers that Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has charged with murder.
State District Judge Alisa Hadfield in April disqualified Brandenburg or anyone in her office from prosecuting the case and ordered her to appoint a special prosecutor. The judge determined an ongoing dispute between Brandenburg and Albuquerque police over a bribery investigation into Brandenburg created a conflict of interest.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas later decided not to seek charges against Brandenburg.
Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.