HOUSTON — Under the law, anyone charged with a crime has the right to be let out of jail before their trial.
The most common way is by paying to get out.
Local judges say a lot goes into deciding how or if someone is given that right.
Recent criticism from Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo over judges giving alleged serial violent offenders low bonds has judges like Franklin Bynum speaking out.
Bynum is the judge from Harris County Criminal Court No. 8.
He said it’s up to judges to determine whether there are conditions that can adequately assure future court appearances in the safety of the community. Courtrooms are the places those decisions are made.
Last month, Chief Acevedo promised to give real life examples of alleged criminals getting out of jail on low bonds.
“A majority of the problem with these low bonds are district court judges and magistrates that are confusing misdemeanors, non-violent misdemeanors, with violent criminals,” Chief Acevedo said.
On June 5, the chief tweeted out about Ketrell Beasley.
He said Beasley was out on bond for a pending murder charge.
Judge Bynum replied via social media, stating police don’t decide whether someone is released.
“At the point that the police officer drops the person off at the jail to be seen by a judge, at that point the police officer is a witness in the case,” Judge Bynum said.
Bond amounts are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Judge Bynum said that included looking at the seriousness of the crime, the person’s ties to the community and their history of appearance in court.
“When our system really works best is when we look at presumptive amounts, kind of a starting point, and then make an individual determination about an individual person," Judge Bynum said.
Also, he added it’s up to a jury to decide if someone is guilty or innocent.
He argued public comments by officials like Chief Acevedo could taint future jury pools.
“I do think that it is a danger to the fairness and the integrity of the whole system,” Judge Bynum said.
He said focusing on dollar amounts, whether too high or too low, misses the point.
In addition, he said there are no bond amount guidelines when it comes to misdemeanors in county courts but there are guidelines in the district courts.
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