His APD interviewer fed him information about the crime, which he then repeated in his confession.
Evidence ignored, confessions coerced
BY SARA MACNEIL
The Albuquerque Police Department has a history of falsely accusing people.
Robert Gonzales, a 20-year-old with mental retardation, spent three years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. In his case, APD allegedly valued a coerced confession over DNA evidence in the murder of 11-year-old Victoria Sandoval.
APD arrested Gonzales without probable cause in 2005. Due to Gonzales’ low IQ, he waived his Miranda right against self-incrimination without fully understanding what that waiver meant. He ended up giving a false confession to the murder. His APD interviewer fed him information about the crime, which he then repeated in his confession.
Gonzales’ attorney, Brad Hall, claims that APD knew Gonzales didn’t commit the crime early on. Lab tests a month after the girl’s murder found another individual’s DNA at the crime scene. Israel Diaz was later charged and the case against Gonzales was dismissed.
Bernalillo County was sued for $30,000 for Gonzales mistreatment in jail where he was targeted because of his label as a child molester. During his incarceration, Gonzales attempted suicide. Settlement money is being dispersed to Gonzales in structured payments overseen by a guardian.
Michael Lee, a 21-year-old magazine salesman, was imprisoned for 15 months for a murder he didn’t commit. Lee filed a lawsuit in 2009 against detectives who allegedly secured a coerced false confession from Lee’s co-worker, Travis Rowley.
Lee was released only after DNA evidence confirmed the confession of another man, Clifton Bloomfield, in the 2007 murders of Tak and Pung Yi. His $950,000 wrongful imprisonment settlement with the City of Albuquerque included lost income and his disqualification from future employment because the dismissed murder charge shows up on background checks. Lee got a tattoo on his back while he was in jail that said, “Not guilty.”
Sara MacNeil is a journalism intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.