Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • In the majority of cases where a DA requested bail of $5,000 or less, judges released the accused (sometimes adding conditions of release).
    • A teenager accused of stealing cell phones was released by the judge although the DA initially asked for $2,500 bail.
  • As noted last week, defense attorneys called attention to family members and loved ones at the arraignment. Judges often cited that as part of their consideration when deciding bail.
    • A Brooklyn ADA requested $15,000 bail for someone charged with driving under the influence who had a history of license suspension and failures to appear. The judge released the accused with a suspended license and order for assessment, stating: “Because your mother cared enough to show up and shows you have strong community ties.”
  • Orders of protection were requested or issued even when alleged victims did not want one or where the order of protection would endanger the accused’s employment or housing.
    • One ADA requested a full order of protection that would have made the accused (and their child) homeless. The public defender requested a limited order, which the judge granted.
    • A new apartment security worker tried to prevent a group of kids, who were residents of the building, from entering. A physical altercation followed with no resulting injuries but the security worker was arrested. The ADA requested $7,500 bail, but the judge chose to release, still issuing three orders of protection. The public defender noted that compliance would be nearly impossible since the accused works where the protected people live. The judge responded, “That’s the accused’s problem.” It is very likely that the security worker will now lose his job.
  • Judges and DAs seemed to be consistent when handling cases that involved traffic charges. For DUI, people were released with a suspended license. On non-DUI charges, people paid a fine or agreed to community service, and were then able to walk out.

Reflections from a Watcher

Brooklyn Criminal Court, AR3
Monday February 5, 2018 6-9pm

As an African American man, I was curious to learn more about the justice system. With the injustice that is happening in this world, I want to make a positive impact on my community and bring a brighter future for tomorrow. Court Watch NYC gave me an opportunity to see how the court prosecutes individuals that commit crimes.

My court watch experience left me baffled. I was puzzled and perturbed with the judge and district attorney prosecuting decisions. There's clearly ample discrepancy in the justice system.

The number one thing that caught my attention was the cloud of inhumanity in the courtroom. I genuinely believe you shouldn’t judge someone without having concrete evidence or granular sources. As a judge, you should look at all the factors that surround the actions of human beings. The judges would set high bails on individuals who were not financially stable or those who had physical or mental disabilities. I also noticed that the judge wouldn't even look at the accused person when the district attorney was presenting the charges or when they gave their sentence.

I hope things change. The judge and DA's must remember that we're all human beings trying to live.