Here is an early look at Bob Wilson's column in this Sunday's Durham News. Agree or disagree? Tell us here (with your name for publication) or at email@example.com.
By Bob Wilson
Mayor Bill Bell is on another hayride for sharply higher bail bonds that would, so he claims, discourage firing a gun in the city. That’s a noble aim (no pun intended), but raising the current bail from $75,000 to $300,000 would be toxic for the constitutional notion of excessive bail.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson isn’t buying Bell’s snake oil, and neither are the city’s trial lawyers. They say the city’s maximum bail for illegally discharging firearms is already higher than most other North Carolina jurisdictions.
Bell’s latest call for $300,000 bail came during his 2012 State of the City address. This is nothing new. It goes back to 2008, when Bell first raised the issue. It lay fallow until August 2011, when Bell blew smoke again upon learning that a homicide suspect free on bail was accused of bank robbery.
Admittedly, that sort of thing concentrates the mind into believing that Durham really does have a revolving-door criminal justice system (Hudson dismisses the perception as a media construct). Yet, as Hudson, the defense lawyers and the U.S. and state constitutions rightly point out, bail can’t be used to trump presumption of innocence.
The constitutions’ language is clear: “Excessive bail shall not be required” for suspects arrested in connection with criminal acts.