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Two years after his groundbreaking call for pretrial reform, Attorney General Eric Holder continues the quest for safe, fair, and effective justice with a new call for bold reformation of sentencing practices for drug offenses. A few highlights from the Attorney General’s remarks at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates on Monday include:

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It’s an issue that simply does not come up that often: “When a state constitution says that there is no right to bail if someone commits murder or treason “when proof is evident, or the presumption strong,” who must carry that burden – the defendant or the prosecution? Indeed, in a well-regarded treatise on criminal procedure, the issue warrants only two lines of text and nary a footnote. Nevertheless, in an opinion dated June 25, 2013 (Fry v. Indiana, No. 09S00-1205-CR-361), the Indiana Supreme Court not only decided the case correctly, it did so with an opinion that transcends the legal issue, providing a glimpse into the sort of knowledgeable court decisions we might soon expect in this latest generation of American bail reform.

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DonatOn June 25, 2013 the Indiana Supreme Court handed down the case of Fry v. State, the first major decision regarding bail in a number of years. The Indiana Constitution contains the common provision Article 1 Section 17. “Offenses, other than murder or treason, shall be bailable by sufficient sureties. Murder or treason shall not be bailable, when the proof is evident, or the presumption strong”. In the case at hand the constitution quest was who has the burden of proof. Indiana case law has long held that the defendant had the burden to show that the facts didn’t establish that “the proof is evident or the presumption strong”. This law was codified by the Indiana legislature in 1981 (India Code 35-33-8-2). Prior law, since 1866, took the position that an indictment on a capital offense established a prima facie presumption the defendant must refute.

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At the Conference of Chief Justices mid-year meeting in Puerto Rico two weeks ago, the nation's highest-ranking state judicial officers adopted a bold and historic resolution calling upon our state courts to "adopt evidence based pretrial practices" and to "advocate for presumptive non-financial pretrial release." (more…)

 

A story out of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a glaring example of the irrational decisions being made all over the country stemming from an addiction to money bond.

The story claims that a St. Louis Sheriff’s worker allowed defendant, Terrell Love, to be freed from jail without paying his $15,000 bail. During the next four months neither Love or the judges and lawyers he interacted with on other cases were aware he was a “Fugitive”. He continued to go to court and stay out of trouble—the point of bail. (more…)