Rest assured, release on bail of a man facing a murder charge is an aberration in Baltimore
Jan 17, 2019 at 2:55 PM
Sen. Will Smith and Del. Erek Barron led a rally in Annapolis for bail reform. (Michael Dresser/Baltimore Sun video)
Judge Michael Studdard’s recent decision to release a man charged with the murder of another individual at a Fell’s Point bar in December is surprising for a couple of reasons (“Judge grants bail to Baltimore man accused of barroom murder in Fell’s Point,” Jan. 17). First, the new bail rules of 2017 have been bastardized by nearly all Baltimore judges and used to hold citizens, mainly indigent black people, in jail pretrial if there’s a whiff of “perceived” violence in the allegations. Judges are to consider flight risk and dangerousness in their bail decisions, but it’s highly subjective. They consider mere handgun possession violent.
Instead of automatic no bails, judges should weigh the facts of the case (such as a drunken barroom fight), the background of the individual (non-violent, working), and release options (monitoring). Seems like Judge Studdard did that here. But, to the second point, that’s not Judge Studdard's MO. Maybe it was the high-powered defense attorney known to “mix it up” with prosecutors. Maybe it was the lack of a public defender beating the same drum for an average client, but this ain’t how he normally rolls. Rest assured, City Councilman Zeke Cohen, it’s normally “held without bail."
Further, Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle’s inane comments on the case about how bail deters crime are simply false just like his past musings in an op-ed on a gun case in which he mangled the facts. Judges need to stop automatically holding folks without bail on most felonies and rise above the fray of our city’s hysteria. Hopefully, that’s what Judge Studdard did here.
Todd Oppenheim, Baltimore
The writer is an attorney in the Baltimore City Public Defender's Office.