Friday, August 31, 2007

Judges in Newark More Cautious With Bails After Triple Slaying

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Judges in Newark have been making it tougher for suspects in crimes to be released on bail since an illegal immigrant who was free on bail in another case was charged in the horrific slaying of three Newark college students.

Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia Costello has told the judges who hear criminal cases in her county to end the practice of approving bail reductions in off-the-record conferences with attorneys and to obtain written consent from prosecutors before reducing bail. She has also told them to verify defendants’ immigration status.

“There is a chill in the air when it comes to bails,” Michael Robbins, a criminal defense attorney, told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Monday’s newspapers.

The execution-style killing of three young people hanging out in a schoolyard caused an outcry in Newark, a city accustomed to violence.

Three men and three teenagers have been charged in the Aug. 4 murders of Terrance Aeriel, 18; Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20. Aeriel’s sister, 19-year-old Natasha, was shot in the back of the head but survived and has helped police identify suspects.

One of the men charged is 28-year-old Jose Carranza, an illegal immigrant from Peru. He was released from jail in May after being charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a child. He made bail after it was reduced from $300,000 to $150,000. A bail bondsman posted the entire amount.

Last week, state Attorney General Ann Milgram ordered law enforcement officials in the state to notify federal authorities when they have reason to believe a suspect is in the country illegally.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said he was concerned that the trend could result in overcrowding the county jail. The facility, which has a capacity of about 2,200, has been hovering between 1,950 and 2,100 inmates, he said.

One defense lawyer, Sebastian Bio, says he fears the Legislature might limit the discretion of judges to lower bail.

“A higher bail and deportation may have averted this particular heinous act,” Bio said, “but it won’t solve the problem of crime in Newark or crime in New Jersey in general.”

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