Judge stops at accident scene, helps defendant

  • Associated Press
  • February 12, 2014 - 1:50 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A northern New Mexico judge stopped at an accident scene on a snowy highway and helped an injured person who turned out to be a defendant due in her courtroom.

District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson and a court bailiff were driving from Espanola to court in Tierra Amarilla the morning of Feb. 4 when they came upon an overturned pickup that had skidded off the highway.

Raphaelson says she recognized an injured passenger who was removed from the truck as burglary defendant Isaac Martinez. He had a pretrial hearing scheduled the same day in Raphaelson's court.

Raphaelson covered Martinez with her jacket as they waited for help and she tried to calm him.

Raphaelson is trained as an EMT and is also a midwife, but she didn't have her medical kit with her, only a stethoscope.

She used it to listen to his lungs and also checked the pulse of Martinez, who was bleeding from his hand and head.

"I could see blood everywhere and I tried to see where it was coming from," she told the Albuquerque Journal (

Others helping at the scene included several defendants also on their way to court. They held a makeshift tarp to keep falling snow off Martinez.

After helping Martinez for an hour, Raphaelson went on to the Rio Arriba County courthouse. She convened court after changing out of her bloody clothes.

When she called out the name of Martinez, she recalled in an interview Tuesday, she told herself that he was in the hospital.

"I will not issue a bench warrant for his arrest," she recalled saying to herself.

That night, the judge went to the hospital in Santa Fe to check on Martinez, but he'd already been released.

Raphaelson said she will now have to consider recusing herself from the cases of all the defendants who were on the roadside.

"If I could make all of their charges go away, I would," she said. "What I saw of their character in that incident tells me so much more about their characters than I could learn from their police files."

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