Republican lawmakers held a press conference March 22 in protest of two recent decisions by commissioners of the Maricopa County Superior Court to allow bond to be set for an illegal immigrant accused of killing a Valley man in a drunk driving accident. The bonding flew in the face of a measure approved by voters in November that prohibits bail in such situations.
The five legislators included Sens. Chuck Gray, R-19; Linda Gray, R-10; Karen Johnson, R-18; Jim Waring, R-7; and Rep. Russell Pearce, R-18.
They joined family members of Robert Christopher Miller, a 20-year-old Peoria resident killed March 4 in an alleged drunk driving accident caused by Jocabed Dominguez-Torres, to decry the actions they claim violate a recently passed Proposition 100 forbidding bail for illegal immigrants accused of serious felonies.
“We’re going to investigate that,” said Sen. Chuck Gray, a former Mesa police officer. “Obviously they are making decisions that are not in accordance to the law so we’re looking at how we can have some sort of checks and balances on them.”
According to the lawmakers, bond was originally set at $150,000 by a superior court commissioner, and after the Immigration Customs Enforcement notified the court of Dominguez-Torres immigration status the amount was lowered to $50,000 by another commissioner.
Scott Miller, the father of the victim, said the rulings were a source of frustration and caused concern Dominguez-Torrez would be deported rather than face trial “when the family should be concentrating on grieving and taking care of each other.”
“We have had to wage war against the judicial system,” he said.
The conference held at the Senate came hours after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Keppel revoked bond for Dominguez-Torres, a decision that was praised by Sen. Linda Gray.
She also was supportive of a letter by presiding Arizona Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor that noted she has directed judges of the obligations of Prop. 105 and called for the identification of changes that can assist compliance with the proposition.
Dominguez-Torres has been indicted for five felonies including manslaughter and aggravated assault. The woman was also in possession of forged identification and has been charged with fraud.
The lawmakers also said they would determine if there are other instances of bail being set for defendants that violate Prop.100 and did not rule out the possibility of a legislative fix if a widespread problem is discovered.
Chuck Gray said court commissioners, which handle initial arraignments and are appointed by presiding county judges, do not face retention elections and are “accountable to no one.”