Friday, December 18, 2009

Judges must use more caution in giving bail to alleged rapists

First-degree murder triggers a presumption against bail. In the public’s mind, child rape follows closely in terms of heinousness and impact on victims and their families. Yet some judges treat accused child rapists more like drug dealers or extortionists when assessing bail. Their actions undermine confidence in the framework of the legal system.

Earlier this week, 26-year-old Joseph Gardner of Kingston was charged with raping a 3-year-old girl. At the time of the alleged attack, he was free on bail on an earlier charge of breaking into a Kingston house and raping a 5-year-old girl. The Plymouth district attorney requested $200,000 cash bail in the earlier case. But Judge Thomas Brownell saw fit to order just $10,000. And a Superior Court Judge upheld that choice. The judges put a cheap price tag on public safety. Gardner’s family put down the money, and he walked out the door.

The public needs to understand that bail is intended primarily to guarantee a court appearance, not to serve as a pre-trial form of punishment. There’s no price list for judges to consult when setting bail. The goal is simply to maximize the likelihood that the defendant, who is presumed innocent, will appear in court.

Read more here

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