where we share a little more of what we hear in bail reviews to give a broader context to what happens in the carceral system
Last week, Judge Jackson presided over bail reviews.
There continued to be issues with ASAs not showing up for bail reviews. This week, there were two last minute fill-ins. This means that an ASA who was already there for another case quickly read the SOC and made a bail recommendation without knowing any more about the case or the history.
There were also two cases where no ASA was present, so Judge Jackson called the case and heard the bail review without an ASA making any argument.
This becomes a serious issue when the SOC does not match what witnesses say happened (or didn’t happen). Or when there is a history of dropped charges, bad searches, or other legal issues tied to the case.
This becomes even more serious when the incident being charged involves bad cops. How do we define bad cops? Those on the SAO’s ”Do Not Call” list, those in the ACLU’s 2021 report, those with thick IAD files and/or those with lots of civil settlements involving their actions as cops and private citizens.
These cops continue to operate in our communities, despite BPD knowing that they are, at the very least, lazy and unwilling to follow protocols. Many are indeed violent and dangerous. How does this play out in the community? Let’s look at one case from this week:
The defense attorney named an Officer Evans, who may be on the SAO’s list, as having been watching CCTV cameras. The only Evans on the SAO’s list is Steven Evans. The defense attorney clarified that this needs to be verified. While watching, Evans saw a person he believed was questionable.
Evans called another known bad cop, Jason Van Helten, also on the SAO’s list. Van Helten went to the area in question and started chasing people. People scattered, as you do in Baltimore. Van Helten arrested someone who was hiding behind a car.
Now, a person who was just minding his own business is caged in overcrowded, violent conditions thanks to cops who have no business being cops. This is what passes for “policing” in Baltimore.
Those of us who live in these communities know how this plays out daily, in slightly different ways. We know who the bad cops are by name and by face. We see them chase, tackle and beat our loved ones daily. Despite a Consent Decree, IAD files, high civil payouts, and their own supervisors knowing about this, it continues. This kind of system cannot be reformed.
Some of the most notoriously bad cops serve on the warrant unit. As we saw what happened in Albuquerque recently, search warrants are one of the worst places to put a bad cop. Using violent search warrants for non-violent, low level offenses leaves lots of opportunities for abuse by bad cops. The execution of a search warrant both uses a large amount of community resources and causes a high level of trauma to our community.
We often hear of bench warrants for Failure to Appear when the person is not in the courtroom because they are in jail and DOC failed to transport them to Court. . As a result, they have an outstanding warrant that may or may not be served on them before they are released from jail.
Then, they get pulled over by a bad cop, and end up back in jail over a warrant for an offense they had no control over. They could also have cops show up to their house and inflict more violence. We regularly hear of charges that a warrant was based on, charges which started someone’s entry into the spiral of state violence, being dropped.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, they may be prosecuted by an ASA stepping in at the last minute, skimming an SOC written by a known bad cop, knowing none of the background information regarding the case, and recommending HWOB.
What happens in the jails while being held on a warrant that will eventually be dropped? This week was a horror story of loved ones with physical, emotional and mental issues being violently harmed by the system, being denied access to everything from immediate psychiatric care to surgery.
The most appalling case we heard this week involves an elder of our community, a father and grandfather. Having one (1) medical condition that requires regular health monitoring and access to medications is difficult while being held in Baltimore pretrial. This grandfather has 6 (S I X) different, unrelated, critical conditions that all need constant monitoring and each needing a different cocktail of medications.
The “medical” clinics in the pretrial facilities are not capable of managing such a complicated case. This person is not getting life saving medications. He is not getting the monitoring and care needed.
All of this brutality for what is deemed (by the racist, carceral, capitalist system) to be a “non violent” incident. And he was HWOB. This is not just bad police. It is bad prosecutors. It is bad judges. It is a system that is rotten to the core.
Thank you for following Baltimore Courtwatch. We need more people to know that what happens in actual courtrooms and jails is not like what you might see on TV. Observing is the only way to know how fucked up the sytem really is. We highly recommend it for everyone.
Remember that prosecutors are cops. Policing is corrupt and violent. Only we can keep us safe.
Last week, Judge Hong presided. Buckle in for an especially chaotic ride.
Judge Hong continued her practice of burdensome demands for paperwork in exchange for the freedom of presumed innocent people. This week she asked for work letters on letterhead, school records, military records, and home purchase documents.
Judge Hong also asked for the juvenile record of someone who is 24 years old. Juvenile records are not allowed to be used in determining bail more than three years from the incident. A 24 year old is well past three years from any juvenile incident.
Judge Hong also chose to keep someone locked up after police militarized a mental health crisis. Remember that jails are not mental health treatment facilities. They are the OPPOSITE. All evidence supports that locking up people with mental health issues leads to increased violence in communities and is a large part of the overcrowding of jails and prisons.
Update on the continuing saga of missing prosecutors. This week, out of 13 cases on the bail dockets, there were 3 missing ASAs. This resulted in three postponements. Three times loved ones have to wait for even a chance of pretrial release.
Pretrial services pointed out to Judge Hong that the schedule was sent to the SAO last week and that they did not know why the ASAs were not here. Pretrial services also informed Judge Hong that Judge Phinn (the judge overseeing these bail reviews) said that if an ASA is missing, another ASA should argue the case.
Judge Hong apparently disagrees with Judge Phinn. She said she will not do that and ordered the cases postponed instead. Which gives you a little glimpse into the work environment amongst the judges in Baltimore.
Missing ASAs are not the only issues with the SAO handling of cases. Multiple people were held months until most charges against them were finally dropped, leaving them with minor misdemeanor charges.
There were two cases where the state admitted that they had no grounds for a case but were going to move forward anyway. In one of the cases, the ASA admitted that the evidence does not match the SOC and the person injured is refusing to take their calls, but they are planning to go forward with the case and recommended HWOB anyway.
In other news of the fucked up, DOC is having their own issues. Due to overcrowding in the Women’s section of Central Booking, women are being moved out of Baltimore to Jessup women’s prison. This is not a pretrial detention facility.
Another person had to have their case postponed due to DOC not following a judge’s order to have the person moved back to Baltimore pretrial facilities. This is months after the order, and the defense lawyer now needs to go get a writ to force DOC to do what the judge ordered. (A writ is a legal document ordering someone to do something.)
We will continue to shine light on the carceral system in Baltimore. Take care of each other this week, give extra love to our squeegee kids, and do not call the cops.
There has been a new trend in the last two weeks: more District Court cases are being heard in Circuit Court. District Court is the entry point for all criminal cases. People accused of felonies and some misdemeanors start in District Court until they are officially indicted, then they move to Circuit Court.
At first, we heard of one District Court Judge saying they were willing to grant home detention, but the physical paperwork had to be provided at that very moment. Let us explain a little of what that means in reality:
Everyone HWOB at the Commissioner level must have a hearing before a District Court Judge within 24 hours. This is to review the bail by the Commissioners (who are not Judges).
Commissioners are not Judges; you do not even need a law degree to become one. They are appointed by Judges. In this instance, we are talking about the Commissioners in Central Booking who first hear the charges and make the first determination of bail .
The Commissioner’s hearing must be done within 24 hours of arrest. So – adding 24 plus 24 – you get 48 hours for someone, while in jail, to arrange getting the physical paperwork to the courtroom before their name is called on the docket.
What started as the unreasonable demand of one ornery Judge has now become standard for most, if not all, of the District Court Judges. Defense lawyers are being told that if they get the paperwork, they can then file in the Circuit Court for it to be reheard, but that the District will not come back to it.
This means that the already sparse slots for Circuit Court bail review are being tied up with District Court cases. And the Circuit Court Judges are not simply granting the home detention now that the paperwork has caught up with the case file. They are often going against the district court judge recommendation of home detention and ordering HWOB.
So District Court Judges have less paperwork to do, Circuit Court Judges can do whatever, and our loved ones continue to be HWOB.
It is not just the judges screwing over communities and families. While pretrial recommendations are supposed to be done by a numeric matrix weighting system, there have been multiple cases in the last two weeks where District Court Pretrial Services recommended home detention. This puts the person at low to moderate risk. Then the Circuit Court Pretrial Services recommended HWOB. District and Circuit Courts Pretrial Services are supposed to be using the same weighting system.
With so many District Court cases coming into Circuit Court, the most likely ASA to be missing from the hearing is the District Court ASA. As a result, Circuit Court ASAs are stepping in at the last minute and arguing the cases having only read the SOPC.
All of this has worsened the already overcrowded conditions at the pretrial facilities in Baltimore. During the past two weeks, we have heard that women are being moved to the Jessup women’s prison (which is not a pretrial facility) due to overcrowding at Central Booking.
People are regularly being moved around as the system is looking for space. Each move requires a COVID quarantine resulting in multiple people not being present for their own bail review hearing.
At the same time, we are hearing about people who have been detained for months and caught COVID in jail. Some have had COVID multiple times while in jail.
None of this is OK. This system is horrifying and cruel. And it is working as intended. The purpose of our system is to be cruel and inhumane. This needs to end now.
Remember this holiday weekend that many people have never been free in this country. Many are sitting, supposedly presumed innocent or known to be innocent, in jails and prisons across our country.
Many families and communities will not be able to celebrate, but instead will be struggling with loved ones missing. Keep them in mind this weekend.
We will be back next week to continue shining lights in the courtrooms of Baltimore. As always, know that the prosecutors are cops. Judges all agree to support white supremacy. And remember that We Keep Us Safe. Not the system.