ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico judge ordered sanctions against the city of Albuquerque after finding the police department failed to preserve vital evidence in the lawsuit involving a woman fatally shot by an officer.
Judge Nan Nash granted the request for sanctions on Thursday from the family of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who was shot by former officer Jeremy Dear in 2014.
Because of the judge's order, the jury at trial will be instructed that the shooting of Hawkes was unreasonable as a matter of law.
Attorneys representing the woman's family said the judge's order means that the jury will focus only on damages.
"The jury will be charged to decide not whether this was wrong, but rather the value of her life," attorney Shannon Kennedy told the Albuquerque Journal.
Attorneys for the city said that they disagree with the judge's order and the question on whether the officer's actions were justified should be left for the jury.
The evidence at the center of the argument is a series of video recordings and cameras that failed to record the fatal shooting. Dear has said his camera was was unplugged during the shooting, and other officers have cited camera malfunctions for the lack of recordings of the encounter. The police department did not preserve the faulty cameras as evidence.
As a result, the judge said the plaintiffs did not have access to the best evidence.