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Albuquerque prosecutor fired after evidence destroyed in rape case

Downtown Albuquerque
Wikimedia Commons

Albuquerque prosecutor fired after evidence destroyed in rape case

The Office of Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez has fired a prosecutor who allowed critical evidence to be destroyed in a rape case.

Torrez fired Jacqueline James because she authorized the destruction of evidence in a rape case — DNA, witness statements, photographs — that her office had decided not to prosecute. Only one month after that happened, the same suspect was accused of raping another woman.

As reported by KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque, in 2013, 17-year-old Amanda Bryand accused Eli Kronenaker of kidnapping her and raping her at gunpoint. According to KRQE, “Amanda handed over her clothing to investigators, text messages, interviewed with detectives, and was assigned a prosecutor under former District Attorney, Kari Brandenburg.”

Later that year, prosecutors chose not to go forward against Kronenaker and the charges were converted to nolle prosequi.

Less than two years later, on June 16, 2015, prosecutor James directed that the evidence be disposed of. One month later, a second woman reported a rape to police and Kronenaker was identified as the perpetrator.

But when Bryand met with prosecutors after Kronenaker was arrested for the second rape, she learned that most of the physical evidence she’d handed over had been destroyed. As was any real chance that the prosecution against Kronenaker for Bryand’s rape would be resurrected. As District Attorney Torrez explained: “[The destruction of evidence] eliminated the ability, for example, for the defense attorney to go and conduct their own independent DNA analysis. Because once that original fabric or garment is destroyed, they lost that ability.”

Around the time of her termination, Jones asserted in a written statementthat she had followed existing policies and procedures and the decision to destroy the evidence was approved by her supervisors.

Torrez has said that his office is reviewing how rape cases are handled to avoid having something like this happen again.

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