2017-09-11 13:13:14 UTC
How Philly plans to ditch cash bail and what stands in the way----Democratic
candidate for district attorney Larry Krasner has a plan to get rid of cash
bail. He's not the only game in town.
Josh Glenn was just 16 when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a
deadly weapon, charged as an adult and thrown in a Philadelphia jail cell.
That's where he sat for 18 months, unable to post the $2,000 bail that would
have let him out of the city's House of Correction.
Glenn's case was ultimately dismissed and he was released, sent back into the
world having spent a year-and-a-half on State Road. Today, Glenn is 29 and a
criminal justice reform advocate in the city who;s fighting daily to change the
system, starting with what he considers to be a broken cash bail apparatus that
punishes the poor just for being poor.
"We're holding folks in who haven't gone to trial, and we're treating them like
they're guilty already," he said. "Cash bail, what it does is create more debt
in poor and low-income houses ... it just doesn't work."
For this activist, there was only one candidate for Philadelphia District
Attorney when the primary rolled around last May: Larry Krasner. Krasner, the
Democratic nominee for Philadelphia district attorney and the favorite to win
the November general election, branded himself as the outsider candidate - the
criminal defense attorney who was going to come in as the city's top prosecutor
and turn the Office of the District Attorney upside down. In a field of 7
candidates, Krasner won the primary and topped the 2nd-place finisher by 18
points on a wave of progressive support, largely through vowing to never seek
the death penalty, to address systematic mass incarceration and, yes, to reform
the city's cash bail system.
And though there's already work being done on the inside of Philadelphia's
criminal justice system to reform how bail works - particularly for low-level,
nonviolent offenders - Krasner says it hasn't yet gone far enough.
"The ideal situation," he said, "would be to eliminate cash bail entirely."
No matter the campaign rhetoric, Krasner can't do that alone. Luckily for him,
he won't have to.
Inside Krasner's 'long-term proposition'
Krasner and like-minded criminal justice reformists point to Washington, D.C.
as the gold standard of bail reform.
The nation's capital, which entirely eliminated money bail in the '90s,
routinely releases 90 % of the people who have been arrested, according to data
gathered by the U.S. Department of Corrections. Of those, 9 in 10 didn't commit
an additional crime before their court date in 2015 and, of the ones who did,
the vast majority were nonviolent offenses.
That's not a decision a DA can unilaterally make. ---- Republican DA candidate
Beth Grossman on eliminating cash bail
In addition to robust monitoring services and treatment options for defendants,
The District also established other alternatives to incarceration, including a
system of check-ins that includes a Day Reporting Center that opened in 2004.
In addition to supervision, the Center offers case management, job training
services, random alcohol and drug testing and medication-assisted drug
Problem is: D.C., which approved eliminating cash bail through local
legislation, is not Philly. Krasner admits that implementing a system analogous
to D.C.'s in Philadelphia would be a "long-term proposition" that will take
time, vetting and cash.
"Unlike D.C., we know that a Republican-dominated, pro-Trump Pennsylvania
legislature is not going to immediately turn around and eliminate cash as an
option," he said. "Having said that, enormous gains can be made without the
passage of any legislation."
For decades, the Philadelphia criminal justice system has operated in a pretty
consistent way when it comes to bail: Some defendants are released on their own
recognizance - usually with little or no conditions - and some people are not
released and bail is set. For Krasner, "the question is really about the
Krasner described what he hopes would be a change in culture at the District
Attorney's Office in which prosecutors aren't asking for "middling" amounts of
bail, but rather they're asking for 1 of 2 things: 1. Full release, with or
without conditions or 2. A high bail that's similar to no bail at all (think
something like $20 million) for the most extreme of cases.
David A. Sklansky, a Stanford law professor who follows the work of progressive
prosecutors around the country, said this approach can work.
"Judges often follow prosecutors' recommendations on bail as well as on other
things," he said, "so prosecutors can do a lot just by changing their
recommendations in particular cases."
The bail reform that's already happening
While Krasner branded himself as the criminal justice reformer during the
primary election, he's not the only game in town - not by a longshot. Since
July 2015, the City of Philadelphia has slashed its daily inmate population by
nearly 20 % as part of a multi-year, $3.5 million grant from the national
MacArthur Foundation, and much of that progress was made by reducing the number
of inmates sitting on State Road awaiting trial.
About 6,700 inmates are currently housed in Philadelphia's criminal justice
system, and generally about 1/4 of them are still awaiting trial.
Michael Bouchard, the director of pretrial services for the First Judicial
District of Pennsylvania, is a member of a coalition of leaders in the city's
criminal justice community tasked with carrying out the ultimate goal of the
MacArthur grant: Reducing the overall inmate population by a third.
2 of 4 major programs aimed specifically at reducing the pretrial population
have already been implemented: Pretrial bail advocates (a program through the
Defender Association) and Early Bail Review, according to Bouchard. The latter
program launched in July 2016 and allows case review within 5 days for
nonviolent defendants who have bails of $50,000 or less and no other reason to
be held. Since its inception, Bouchard said, 86 % of defendants who had an
early bail review hearing were released, while 90 % of those released appeared
at their next court date.
The other 2 programs - a risk tool and alternatives to cash bail - that are
still the works are interconnected. City officials are working with researchers
at the University of Pennsylvania to develop a new risk assessment tool that
they hope will allow for a scientific approach to assigning alternatives to
"The goal with implementing a new risk tool is to reduce or eliminate cash
bail," Bouchard said. "That's been the goal since the inception of the
There's growing recognition that a justice system that keeps people in custody
just because they're poor is wrong. ---- Miriam Krinsky, executive director of
Fair and Just Prosecution
Julie Wertheimer, the city's chief of staff for criminal justice and a leader
on the MacArthur undertaking, said parts of her team have met with both Krasner
and Beth Grossman, a former prosecutor and the Republican nominee for district
attorney, twice each to discuss the progress they've already made and to review
how the incoming DA can fit into the structures currently in place.
"Both seem supportive of it and understand that the current DA's office has
played an active role in this," Wertheimer said, "and that it's our hope that
whomever is the new DA will continue that."
Grossman said in an interview that she's "committed" to continue working with
MacArthur grant decision-makers and said she's open to eliminating cash bail
for low-level, nonviolent offenders. As for eliminating cash bail entirely,
Grossman said "never say never, but that's not a decision a DA can unilaterally
Krasner acknowledges that. It's why he says if he wins in November, he's going
to have to work to win buy-in from stakeholders across the criminal justice
system before he can claim success in slashing Philadelphia's cash bail system
as we know it. Fortunately for him, the city's already heading there, and has
been for years.
"We as a system are moving in this direction," Wertheimer said of efforts to
move toward eliminating cash bail. "That's why we've been able to absorb
leadership changes. Everyone else in the system has already signed onto this
Can Krasner win more buy-in?
That doesn't mean a reform-minded district attorney won't face pushback,
according to Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor and executive director
of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network of progressive prosecutors.
"Change is never easy, and it's particularly challenging for lawyers and judges
who tend to be somewhat change-averse," she said. "It does create challenges
for newly-elected district attorneys ... It's important for them to be
strategic and not presume they're going to be able to hit a reset button
Krasner said he believes it's possible to win a "high level of buy-in that
would result in extremely different bail results." The challenge, he admits,
will be in convincing some bail commissioners and local judges that releasing a
defendant they would have slapped bail onto before isn't a public safety
concern. He said if he wins the general election in November, he'll get to work
then on that process of persuasion.
"One of our tasks will be to inform the judiciary ... and to try to achieve a
level of buy-in based upon science," Krasner said, "as opposed to hunch and
intuition and everything else that, frankly, has been the primary driver in the
criminal justice system since Salem."
We're holding folks in who haven't gone to trial, and we're treating them like
they're guilty already. ----Josh Glenn, who spent 18 months in jail before his
case was dismissed
They'll point to positive results in D.C. and, more recently, in New Jersey,
which upended its criminal justice system in January by essentially ending the
cash bail system statewide. Since then, the number of inmates awaiting trial
dropped by 20 %.
Krinsky said public sentiment surrounding cash bail has dramatically shifted.
Save for the bail bondsman industry, criminal justice officials across the
country on the left and the right are slowly moving toward reforming their own
cash bail systems.
"There's growing recognition that a justice system that keeps people in custody
just because they're poor is wrong," she said. "It's wrong for the individual,
and it's wrong for the community."
Sklansky said as challenging as it can be to win hearts and minds outside the
District Attorney's Office, it can be just as difficult to gain buy-in from the
inside, particularly from career prosecutors, some of whom have worked in the
system for decades. He said that's "another reason why it can be difficult for
a progressive prosecutor to make good on the hope and expectations that
surround his or her election."
Though many prosecutors in Philadelphia have indicated they're open to reform,
gaining their support could prove especially problematic for Krasner, who spent
the better part of his career criticizing law enforcement in the city. In a May
op-ed in the Philadelphia Citizen, a group of 12 current and former assistant
district attorneys urged Philadelphians to vote for anyone but Krasner, writing
that "many of the ADAs that Mr. Krasner doesn't let go will quit, rather than
work for someone who has branded everyone in the office a liar before even
taking the reins."
In the end, that could simply mean there will be high turnover among the city's
300 assistant district attorneys if Krasner takes office in January, a
not-uncommon phenomenon when leadership changes. That doesn't seem to bother
Krasner, who's indicated he's open to overhauling management across the board.
"To the extent that [prosecutors] share values around improving things, getting
better results for everyone, then there will be buy-in," Krasner said. "And to
the extent that they are opposed to the mission, maybe they are better served
by being in a different line of work."
Ohio prepares to put condemned killer of 2 to death
Ohio is preparing to put a condemned killer of 2 people to death this week as
the inmate awaits word on last-minute appeals.
Death row prisoner Gary Otte was sentenced to die for the Feb. 12, 1992,
killing of Robert Wasikowski and the Feb. 13, 1992, killing of Sharon Kostura.
Both slayings took place in Parma in suburban Cleveland.
The state plans to execute the 45-year-old Otte on Wednesday with a lethal
combination of 3 drugs.
A federal court is considering Otte's argument that the 1st drug in the process
creates an unconstitutional risk of severe harm.
Ohio put the killer of a 3-year-old girl to death in July, the 1st execution in
more than 3 years after a delay caused by a drug shortage.
(source: Associated Press)
Attorneys In Akron Arson Case Want the Death Penalty Removed Over Former Police
Chief's Racial Slur
Stanley Ford has been charged with setting 3 fires that killed 9 people in
Akron. At the time of the indictment, James Nice was chief. He resigned last
month, and 1 of the reasons was his reported use of the N-word in a private
conversation. Ford is black, Nice is white, and now Ford's attorneys say race
played a part in their client facing the death penalty.
Dean Carro - a professor of law emeritus at the University of Akron - says
proving white and black defendants were treated differently could be difficult.
"Even to get to that data, they have a tough burden. Assuming they get that
data, they still have to prove that this was not a function of prosecutorial
discretion, but it was motivated by race.
"It would have to be established pretty clearly that the chief not only held
these privately held views about African-Americans, but expressed those and
that got turned into a policy or a decision or a discretionary determination to
charge. That seems pretty far away from the chief."
Carro adds that the defense motion could also be hampered by an unusual move
made by prosecutors prior to the indictment. They allowed Ford's attorneys to
present mitigating circumstances that could have influenced the decision to add
a death-penalty specification.
(source: WKSU news)
Inmate called unfit to face murder trial----Man accused of killing officer at
An Arkansas inmate accused of killing a female correctional officer has been
found by mental health experts to be unfit to proceed to trial.
Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 27, appeared Tuesday with Little Rock lawyer Ron
Davis at a hearing before Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson.
Hunter is charged with capital murder in the Dec. 18 death of correctional
officer Lisa Mauldin, who died after she was attacked in the kitchen of the
Miller County jail. Hunter is also charged with battery of a peace officer for
injuries suffered by correctional officer Damaris Allen shortly after Mauldin
was attacked. The state is seeking the death penalty.
Johnson ordered a mental evaluation of Hunter earlier this year after Davis
entered an innocent plea by reason of mental disease or defect. Stephanie
Black, the prosecuting attorney for Miller and Lafayette counties, told the
court that the psychologist who performed the evaluation of Hunter has moved to
California since completing a fellowship in Arkansas at the State Hospital.
That doctor found that Hunter is not currently capable of assisting his lawyer
with his defense, but the doctor expressed the opinion that further evaluation
is needed, Black said. Davis said defendants found unable to assist their
lawyers, and thus not fit to proceed, are typically ordered to a facility such
as the State Hospital for 10 months in hopes that competency can be restored
through drugs and other therapy.
However, Davis pointed out that while Arkansas law provides a mechanism for
incompetent defendants to be treated with hopes of restoring competency,
Hunter's case is different because he was already an inmate in the Arkansas
Department of Correction at the time of the attacks on Mauldin and Allen.
Hunter was assigned to the Miller County jail as part of the Department of
Correction's 309 program that allows certain offenders to serve their sentences
in county jails in need of cheap labor.
Hunter has been serving a 15-year term for aggravated robbery and 2 counts of
felony domestic battery. He was sentenced Feb. 22, 2011, as part of a plea
bargain in Pulaski County.
Dr. Benjamin Silver, a staff psychologist at the State Hospital, said that
Hunter appears to fall somewhere on the "schizophrenia spectrum" but that
diagnosing individuals with certain disorders can require lengthy observation.
At the end of Tuesday's hearing, Johnson ordered that Hunter return to the
State Hospital for further evaluation. Until a determination is made concerning
Hunter's competency, the case against him in Miller County cannot move forward.
If found guilty of capital murder, Hunter faces death or life in prison without
the possibility of parole. If found guilty of 1st-degree battery of a peace
officer, Hunter faces 10 to 40 years or life in prison.
Psychologists allowed to testify in beheading case
A nearly 3-year murder case could be getting closer to a conclusion.
Several motions and responses have been filed in accused murderer Alton
Alexander Nolen's case, including the state's motion to suppress the testimony
of psychologists Jeanne Russell and Antoinette McGarrahan on the defenses'
intent to use an insanity defense at trial.
Judge Lori Walkley ruled last week that Russell and McGarrahan would be able to
testify at Nolen's trial, which is set to start later this week. Early
indications point towards the trial lasting about a month.
Currently, the court is working to select 60 potential jurors that can give
meaningful consideration to all 3 potential penalties if the Nolen is found
guilty. The penalties include life in prison with the possibility of parole,
life without parole, or, what the prosecution is seeking, the death penalty.
Of the 60, the final 14, made up of 12 jurors and 2 alternates will be chosen
to hear the case.
Nolen is accused of beheading Colleen Hufford in 2014, before he was shot by
Vaughan Foods executive and Oklahoma County Sheriff's Reserve Deputy Mark
According to a Moore Police affidavit, Nolen, who had been recently fired from
his production line job at the company, due to a complaint, entered the front
office on Sept. 25, 2014, with a knife, stabbing coworkers and beheading
Nolen faces a 1st-degree murder charge and 5 assault with a weapon charges.
Trial for accused cop killer Jonathan Renfro opens in Coeur d'Alene
It was the kind of crime that a community remembers forever: Following reports
of burglaries, a 16-year veteran Coeur d'Alene Police officer enters an area of
the Lake City after midnight. The officer encounters an armed man and is shot
in the head.
Sgt. Greg Moore died several hours later on May 5, 2015, after medical efforts
to save him ended. He was later awarded the Idaho Medal of Honor in a ceremony
that included his son and father.
Today, Kootenai County officials will gather scores of residents to the
courthouse to begin the selection of a jury, who will decide the fate of
Jonathan D. Renfro, 29, charged with 1st-degree murder and several other
charges in connection to Moore's death.
The jury's task could come in 2 stages. If it eventually decides during a trial
- which could include more than 100 witnesses and dozens of experts - that
Renfro is guilty of 1st-degree murder, it would then be asked in a separate
hearing whether the defendant should also face the death penalty.
The case will be prosecuted by Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh and
deputies David Robins and Jed Whitaker. The defense includes Twin Falls
attorney Keith Roark, who was appointed to represent Renfro along with Deputy
Kootenai County Public Defenders Jay Logsdon and Linda Payne.
First District Judge Lansing Haynes, himself a former Kootenai County deputy
prosecutor, has issued a gag order that prevents the attorneys from commenting
on the case.
But last year, prosecutors alleged in a written motion that Renfro not only
admitted his involvement in the shooting but predicted he may have been
targeting police. The motion was filed last year to bolster the state's case
for aggravating factors that may be used in its effort to seek the death
Prosecutors claimed, in the motion, that Renfro showed his girlfriend the gun
that was later determined to be the one that killed Moore. Renfro, who was on
felony parole at the time, displayed the gun a the day before the deadly
"The defendant boasted that a bullet within the magazine was a 'cop killer'
bullet," the motion states, according to court records. "When asked about what
he would do if stopped by law enforcement, the defendant claimed he would go
down murdering police officers."
The motion also claims that while in jail, Renfro has laughed about committing
certain aspects of the crime during phone conversations.
Renfro "has justified his actions as being noble - claiming that cops will now
think twice before being aggressive with individuals," the motion read.
Shortly after he was arrested, Renfro told detecitves that on Sept. 5 he went
looking for a car to steal and "to collect money on behalf of white
supremacists from Native Americans."
In a 2-hour interview with investigators, Renfro first denied shooting Moore
and blamed the crime on someone named Davis. Renfro changed his story and
admitted to shooting Moore when a detective informed him that the incident had
been captured on Moore's body camera.
When a detective asked Renfro why he shot Moore, the suspect replied, "Fear,"
according to a transcript of the police interview that was read in court.
"Fear of what?" the detectives asked him. "Having a gun in my damn pocket,"
Renfro answered, according to court testimony.
Moore apparently stopped to question Renfro after seeing him, dressed in dark
clothing, walking down a sidewalk on Wilbur Avenue in a residential
neighborhood a little before 1:30 a.m.
One of the detectives, during the court hearing in 2015, also asked Renfro how
Moore had treated him during the encounter. Renfro said he found Moore to be a
"really nice man," according to the transcript read in court in August 2015.
Former Public Defender John Adams questioned Idaho State Police Detective
Michael Van Leuven, the lead investigator in the case, during the preliminary
hearing in 2015.
Adams asked Van Leuven if Renfro told detectives he shot Moore because the
officer had placed his hand on his service pistol. Van Leuven said yes, but he
didn't recall the exact words Renfro used.
According to the interview transcript, Renfro told detectives, "If my intent
was to shoot him, I would have shot him before I gave him my ID."
Renfro continued: "I was feeling scared, trapped and concerned," and as soon as
he saw Moore place a hand on his gun, "I didn't think," and just reacted,
according to the transcript read in court.
Prosecutors earlier had asked Judge Haynes to move the case to Boise in an
effort to find jurors who had not heard about the case, but Haynes refused.
"This court specifically finds that the bulk of publicity in this case, as
presented by Renfro, consists of accurate representations of the allegations
leading to the charges against Renfro, and accurate representations of the
various procedural stages of the case," Haynes wrote in his decision last June.
(source: The Spokesman-Review)
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