Printed Letters: July 9, 2017
Local judges should reconsider cash bail
When people are arrested for allegedly committing a crime, they can be released on personal recognizance or a cash or property bond may be accepted as bail. Bail is to ensure they will appear in court again. Judges can abuse this system by setting bail very high or allowing only “cash bail.”
In Mesa County, Sentinel readers know prosecutors often request cash bail only and judges almost as frequently agree.
Last April the chief judge of the federal district court in Houston, in a blistering 193-page ruling, declared local courts were unconstitutionally creating a system of preventative detention. Under the Constitution, everyone is entitled to a reasonable bail. Only those accused of the most violent crimes can be denied bail. The ruling enjoining these practices was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in June. The Supreme Court may eventually rule on this. The Houston case involved misdemeanor defendants jailed for nonviolent crimes because they did not have cash to pay bail bond premiums. The same principles should apply to those charged with nonviolent felonies as well. In Colorado, bail bondsmen can charge a 15 percent bond premium.
A lot of people do not have cash for the bond premium. Once there, they may lose their jobs, or, will not be paid while jailed. This makes it more likely they will need court appointed counsel, thus increasing costs to society as a whole.
Studies indicate chronic use of cash-only bail does not ensure defendants are more likely to appear in court. More jurisdictions are reconsidering their bail policies. In effect, it can be a punitive measure jailing those who have not been convicted of anything. It has been used to discriminate against minorities.
Local judges should read O’Donnell v. Harris County and reconsider their bail rulings.
Where’s the NRA’s indignation following Castile shooting?
Where is the NRA? Where is their righteous indignation over the Philando Castile shooting? A licensed concealed-carry owner, after informing the police he was licensed and carrying was shot down by a panicky officer. I saw the side-by-side tapes and Castile was gunned down. Where is the “gun owners’ rights” speech? Where is the “end of society unless we’re all armed” line?
I hate to think the NRA only supports gun rights for white people. The latest NRA commercial is almost calling for armed insurrection. But I know why the NRA is acting this way. Because gun sales fell off the table after the election and the NRA has become a trade organization for gun makers. Make ‘em scared and they’ll buy more guns.
Proposal to resize national monument not unprecedented
The Trump administration’s “unprecedented” effort to break up and shrink a national monument has been done at least 18 times before, with presidents of both parties exercising power to significantly reduce the size of U.S. landmarks established by their predecessors. Most cuts were relatively small. Franklin D. Roosevelt cut Arizona’s Wupatki National Monument by 52 acres, and Dwight D. Eisenhower cut Alaska’s Glacier Bay by 4,193 acres. William Howard Taft, John F. Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge and Harry S. Truman also reduced sizes of monuments.
Eisenhower and Roosevelt were the most active, cutting six and four monuments, respectively.
Washington’s Mount Olympus, now a part of Olympic National Park, has been the most frequent target. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt granted monument status covering more than 610,000 acres. But its size was quickly reduced. Taft in 1912 eliminated 160 acres. Wilson dramatically cut the monument by about 50 percent in 1915. Coolidge reduced the monument by 640 acres, according to National Park Service data.
Environmentalists and congressional Democrats are framing the current battle — the Interior Department’s proposal to resize Bears Ears National Monument in Utah — as a first-of-its-kind expansion of executive power, a move that stretches to the breaking point the century-old Antiquities Act, which gives presidents authority to create monuments. The resizing of Bears Ears is just one piece of the administration’s broader review of nearly two dozen national monuments.
The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, issued a fundraising email last week calling the Bears Ears proposal a “legally unprecedented action.” For some years now, the club has been raking in money by stoking baseless fears and making overblown claims. Congressional Democrats voiced similar objections, but we all know they object in principle to anything proposed by the other side. Other groups will now join the parade for donations. Do a little searching before you get the checkbook out.
WILLIAM A. COATES