Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

viernes, mayo 08, 2009

Judicial Grandstanding

By now, you've read about the arrest of Stephen P. Morgan for the murder of Johann Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University junior. Morgan, it seems, turned himself in on Thursday evening after eluding the police for a day. His bail was originally set at the princely sum of $10 Million. A huge, unmakeable bail. Put another way, he wasn't remanded without any bail (which would undoubtedly have been appropriate in this case). Instead he was given a bail, but the amount was set so high that nobody without huge assets and lots of ready cash-- Morgan apparently doesn't fall in that category-- could ever dream of making it. In other words, he's not getting bailed out. Ever. And that was undoubtedly intended: Morgan had fled the scene, didn't have ties to Connecticut, tried to disguise himself when he allegedly committed the crime, escaped detection at the crime scene, and he had every reason to flee prosecution. This is how these kinds of serious cases usually play out: the accused is detained in jail until the trial. You would have thought that the $10 Million bail ended the discussion. Wrong.

Today's NY Times reports:

A judge on Friday raised the bail for the man accused of fatally shooting a Wesleyan University junior in a bookstore near the campus to $15 million from $10 million, citing the seriousness of the crime and the threat posed to the community he had paralyzed for more than 24 hours until he surrendered.

The suspect, Stephan P. Morgan, 29, wearing a dark violet jumpsuit and with his hands cuffed behind his back, stood expressionless during his arraignment on first-degree murder charges before Superior Court Judge Mary-Margaret Burgdorff....snip

On Friday, Judge Burgdorff said she was raising the bail because, beyond his threat to the community, Mr. Morgan does not live in Connecticut and because he was wearing a disguise when he allegedly committed the crime. His next court appearance will be May 19.

This is obvious judicial politicking and grandstanding. The United States Constitution provides in the Eighth Amendment that "[e]xcesive bail shall not be required." Bail, the case law says uniformly, is excessive when a court sets it higher than reasonably necessary to ensure a defendant's appearance at trial." So the question naturally arises about the increase in Morgan's bail. There was no indication that he or anyone else on his behalf could come near to posting $10 Million in cash or bail bonds. Who could actually post that amount? Well, Bernie Madoff at one point posted $10 Million. Nobody is suggesting that Morgan is in Madoff's financial league. The $10 million was assurance that he'd be detained until trial.

So how does one explain at 50% increase in the bail, from $10 Million to $15 Million? You can't. I know he's alleged to be a heinous criminal, an anti semite, and a huge danger to everyone in Connecticut whom he paralyzed with fear, but Judge Burgdorff's ruling today is abusive. It's an example of unnecessary, judicial grandstanding. It's based on her view that Morgan is a very, very bad man, indeed. He's so bad that $10 Million bail isn't enough. He's so bad that $15 Million is better. Put another way, while he's down it's expedient and easy to pile on.

Today's bail decision has nothing to do at all with applying the law. It has everything to do with politics. And it's an abuse that should be vacated.

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