A bail reform hearing lasted for six hours because dozens of people shared their testimonies and arguments about the current bail system in America. This made the Court of Appeals decide to postpone the voting for revisions until February instead. The revisions suggested that judges and court commissioners should consider the requirement of bail as a last option and that the financial means of the defendant should also be considered. There was already a previous motion for the changes to be adopted but it failed when it only got three votes out of seven judges.
An article by baltimoresun.com states that “Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joined Maryland’s top attorney and judges Thursday in urging the state’s highest court to adopt new rules designed to prevent people who have been arrested from languishing in jail because they are unable to afford bail.”
Under President Barack Obama, Holder served as attorney general. This was from 2009 to 2015. He has been an advocate of bail reform in the country. The article states that Holder claims “Maryland’s pretrial system punishes low-income defendants, rewards wealthier defendants and disproportionately detains racial minorities.” According to him, this bail system is “failing to advance the interest of safety.”
Additionally, the article states that, “Critics of the bail system say too many people are detained without being found guilty because they’re given a bail that they can’t pay. The purpose of bail is not to hold someone, but to ensure appearance in court. Judges can order someone held without bond if they believe they are dangerous or a flight risk.
Others are held for weeks or months, and may plead guilty simply to achieve release.”
According to Maryland Attorney General Brian e. Frosh, “People should not be held in jail because they’re poor,” He told the judges that “dangerous people should be detained pending trial. The proposed rule, I believe, is consistent with both of those principles.”
Among the judges who agreed to pass the new rule was Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. Even so, the article states that “others expressed concerns that jurisdictions across the state were not prepared to supervise an increase in people who are released under court-mandated conditions.”
The article states that “Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement led those speaking out against the change, saying the bail system is “plainly constitutional” and should be an option for those seeking release.”
Clement, who claims to represent Lexington National Insurance Company at the hearing, said that “If we’re concerned about unnecessary detention, we should keep a robust bond industry available.”
It is a good thing that the court is willing to discuss bail reform propositions with bail system opponents for the purpose of improving justice system in the city fairly. As a matter of fact, in the name of crime and justice, it is not only the bail system that is being looked at for changes and improvement, but also the judicial system when dealing with crime charges and sentences.
There are also bills created for the purpose of ending Alabama’s current court practice where judges are allowed to impose death sentences. This is even if it is against the recommendations of the jury. A Republican senator and a House of Representatives’ democratic member both submitted bills seeking to take off the ability of the judge to impose death penalty even if jury recommendations is only life imprisonment. This is with regards to capital cases. In fact, Alabama is the last state allowing this judicial practice as the Delaware Supreme Court already forbid this judicial override system for capital cases last August.
According to an article by weldbham.com, “Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, has filed a bill that ‘would prohibit a court from overriding a verdict by a jury in a capital case,’ while Representative Terry England, D-Tuscaloosa, filed House Bill 32 to ‘require a verdict of death to be based on a unanimous vote of the jury and would prohibit a court from overriding a verdict by a jury in a capital case.’”
As a matter of fact, the article states that “In March, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Todd issued a judicial order declaring that it’s unconstitutional for Alabama to allow judicial override.”
According to Todd, “The practice of overriding a jury’s advisory verdict of life without the possibility of parole for the imposition of capital punishment in Alabama has become questionably prevalent and suspiciously routine.”
She also added that “Alabama is now the only state where judges are even permitted to override jury verdicts of life to impose the death penalty. Because judges in Alabama are elected, their decisions on such cases are politicized.”
The article also states that “In her order, Todd also found that ‘Jefferson County leads the state in total death sentences resulting from judicial overrides,’” with 17 such sentences between 1976 and 2011. A report released in October by Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project made similar criticisms of how capital cases are resolved in Jefferson County. The project found that since 2006, Jefferson County trial judges overruled jury recommendations of life imprisonment and imposed capital punishment in 44 percent of capital case verdicts.”
Moreover, the article states that “Even if Brewbaker and England’s bills do not pass, however, Alabama’s allowance of judicial override in capital cases will almost certainly be challenged in court.”
Whether it is bail reform or judicial override issues, both the court and the state legislatures should carefully think and evaluate the current systems they have as well as the suggested revisions for them, in order to come up with a fair decision that will serve justice for all.
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