The same week that Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, also New Mexico's GOP candidate for governor, had a staffer reprimanded, the U.S. Supreme Court made a crucial decision about guns. The two happenings relate.
The DA acted after an e-mail concerning a "New Mexican girl" shooting a Mexican and an Arab was forwarded from the DA's office. New Mexico Independent reporter Bryant Furlow requested a copy to verify the content but was told it wasn't possible because the e-mail had been deleted.
The e-mail did, however, show up later on the Independent's Web site. And, depending on the state of the reader's mind, it was even more offensive than previously alluded to.
The plot in the missive has a New Mexican girl snuffing a Mexican and an Arab with a .45. Then that line about "In New Mexico, we have so many illegal aliens that we don't have to drink with the same ones twice" (meaning people of those ethnicities are expendable). All that is sufficiently disturbing, but then the last line says, "GOD BLESS NEW MEXICO AND THAT PARTICULAR NEW MEXICAN GIRL," meaning the murderer.
God bless the murderer? In a prosecutor's office? And does the "New Mexican girl" allude to somebody?
Rick Wellborn, a Dona Ana County prosecutor and candidate for GOP district judge, replaced Lisa Kuykendall as his campaign treasurer after news broke she had forwarded the e-mail. Both Wellborn and Kuykendall are prosecutors in Martinez's office.
The e-mail's alleged originator, Brandy Toward, was disciplined by the administrative office of the District Attorney's Association, according to the Associated Press, after sending the e-mail to Kuykendall.
Martinez said Kuykendall's "actions were inappropriate" but added, "Some have seen fit to play politics with this deeply unfortunate incident."
A League of United Latin American Citizens spokesperson said the e-mail "only exacerbates racial tensions." The state Democratic Party chairman said he wanted to fire the responsible prosecutor.
While Martinez was minimizing the e-mail scandal, the state Republican Party alerted reporters that Martinez carries a .45 every day, yet claiming the story and the e-mail were "a coincidence."
One problem with wished-for violence disguised as a joke, like in the e-mail, is that it is really a form of intimidation. The message behind that satire is intended to promote someone by hurting someone else, even killing. That's the kind of hyperbole that kidnappers, blackmailers, and terrorists use. The humor is involved in a two-faced flirtation with actual wrong-doing.
And that's why we want prosecutors to have good sense, ones who know to hold accomplices and accessories and provocateurs to account for their actions and intentions. A prosecutorial trust is a fundamental one because prosecutors are upholders of society's values in determining which laws apply when a social wrong is done.
During the same week as the New Mexico disclosures, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its latest decision concerning personal rights and firearms.
David Ignatius in the Washington Post blog "Post Partisan" suggested that Chief Justice John Roberts and other enthusiasts of the new vision of a universal right to bear arms should take a trip to Beirut or Baghdad to see how their vision works in practice.
"They've been struggling (in Lebanon and Iraq) to establish a rule of law, where the police have a monopoly of force, and militias are a thing of the past," Ignatius wrote. "How weird that we are moving in the opposite direction."
It's also crazy that this was a joking matter in Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.