LAST WEEK IN COURT

JUNE 12 - JUNE 18

Watchers' Major Takeaways

  • 78% of cases observed this week were under 5 minutes
    • In one such case, the defendant was charged with gun possession. Prosecution asked for $2500 cash bail. The defense argued that the defendant is employed, has young children to support, has never missed court, has a stable residence and disputes the CJA recommendation. The judge gives no explanation and sets bail at $5000 bond or $2500 cash. A life-altering decision that was made in just a few minutes.
  • Bail arguments most commonly used by the defense to argue for bail to not be set:
    • Ties to the community (56%)
    • Currently working/going to school (22%)
    • Strength/weakness of evidence (22%)
    • Inability to pay/indigent/unemployed (22%)
  • Bail arguments most commonly used by the prosecution to argue for bail to be set:
    • Flight risk (56%)
    • Prior arrests/convictions (56%)
    • Current charge (violence, resisted, serious) (44%)
  • Judges very rarely explain the factors they consider when deciding whether or not to set bail
    • There was only one case in which a judge provided reasoning for setting bail.
    • In one case the prosecution requested $2500 bail and the judge set bail at $5000 without providing any reasoning for the decision.
  • Judges stuck with the prosecutor’s plea recommendation/offer in 91% of cases observed.
  • Differences in case outcomes continue to persist, dependent on borough and judge
    • Take two assault in 3rd degree cases: one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, defense points out the weakness of evidence of the case and says that there was a witness present that said none of the alleged events happened. The accused also adamant that nothing happened. Prosecution requests $1500 cash bail and the judge sets $1000 bond/$500 cash bail even in the face of little evidence. On the same day in Manhattan on another assault in the 3rd degree case, prosecution requests $2500 bail and an order of protection due to “lengthy record” and prior FTAs. Defense argues client isn’t a flight risk, is working, and it’s been 14 years since any prior arrests. Judge RORs.
  • Court watchers noted striking differences in the treatment of defendants with private attorneys and those with public defenders.
    • In one case, a young white male had a private attorney. The private attorney spoke closely with the ADA while the ADA was on the phone with someone. The ADA then handed the phone to the defendant. They spoke and then offered ACD.
    • In another case, an 18 year old black male stood alone, handcuffed and surrounded by three officers while the judge, prosecutor and his public defender sidebarred out of earshot.
  • One watcher noted a gravity knife case where the DA stressed that their office isn’t prosecuting gravity knife cases in which the defendant is to their way to/from work and is in possession of a knife they need for work. The DAs office has the power to decide what charges to bring and whether to prosecute. So, if the Manhattan DA’s office is not prosecuting these types of cases, why was the accused subjected to the trauma of arrest and arraignment?