Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bail Abuse: A Good Judicial Decision Attacked

The Times Union reported June 6th about a case in Rensselaer County where Judge Jacon released a defendant on his own recognizance. The defendant, 18 years old and local to the county, was the driver in an accident where a 19-year-old passenger was killed.

The victim's mother and some elected officials in the county are upset that no bail was set. Anyone can understand the victim's mother being upset, but the actions of the county officials are disturbing.

According to the paper, the county legislature is considering a resolution to ask the state legislature to set a minimum bail requirement, and some officials "have demanded an explanation from Jacon." Since he can't explain (a judge is not supposed to comment on a case pending before him), I will. No bail was set because there's no reason to require bail. A local 18-year-old is not a flight risk. He is likely to appear in court so there's no need for bail.

One Republican official is quoted as saying that community members are upset by the judge not setting a bail amount, and said that the county legislature's action "will bring the matter to Jacon's attention." Great. So the county officials (all of whom are from the party opposite that of the judge) are doing what then? Um ... threatening judicial independence? Yep.

The victim's mother is quoted as saying there should be "a repercussion" for what happened. There is. The defendant has been charged with at least two crimes (felony vehicular manslaughter and misdemeanor DWI). If convicted he can get jail time. But you see, he gets convicted and punished AFTER he gets due process. It's this crazy little concept we used to have in America called "Innocent until proven guilty."

I congratulate Judge Jacon for doing the right thing in the face of this kind of offensive political pressure.

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