On Wednesday, Senate Republicans were joined at the Capitol by a bi-partisan group of district attorneys, members of law enforcement and crime victims’ families. They were there to voice their concerns over proposed criminal justice reforms- namely “cashless bail”. It’s one issue in bills that are among top items for the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate.
“When it comes to bail, no District Attorney I know believes that anyone should sit in jail awaiting trial solely because they lack the financial resources.” But, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney added: “bail reform must be sensible and not tie judges hands in ways that jeopardize public safety.”
And he says he fears that’s what might happen in New York.
Carney says other states that made reforms chose to add “risk assessment tools” where judges can measure a defendant’s potential danger or could have them monitored and tracked after they make bail. But the DA says the New York proposal lacks both of these.
Another big concern brought up today, possible witness intimidation. One of the proposed measures would require all evidence to be turned over to defendants within 15 days, including the names and addresses of witnesses.
Prominent criminal defense attorney Tucker Stanclift says in those cases DA’s could apply for protective orders on behalf of witnesses or confidential informants.
“But we shouldn’t be hiding evidence from the majority of defendants who go through the system on cases where threats of violence are not relevant to that type of defendant or that type of case,” said Stanclift.
Michael and Regina Stewart, who also spoke during today’s press conference in Albany say one other group is being under-represented, and that’s crime victims’ families.
They held up urns containing their son Christopher’s ashes. In 2012 he was one of two local teens killed by a drunk driver. Michael asked that people consider what is truly fair when a defendant causes irreparable damage. He said, “Let’s just remember that those people chose their actions. And those actions lead them in front of the judge.”