Bail for the Bad Guys?

We’ve been spoiled by having Judge Gregory Rupe in the Manchester General District Court.  He was scrupulously fair but he was Big Trouble for anybody who made trouble here on the Gracious Southside.

A few years ago Judge Rupe died and went to heaven moved up to Circuit Court.  These days his old customers are being served by the newly-appointed David Hicks.

Hicks served three terms as Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney before becoming a senior bureaucrat in Mayor Jones’ administration.  Notwithstanding his law enforcement background, I’m hearing grumblings that he is turning loose — especially by granting bail to — people that should be in jail.

I thought I’d go see for myself.  So today, Louise McQueen and I sat through Judge Hicks’ morning docket.

This is General District Court so the docket is huge.  Much of it, however, is short matters such as setting trial dates or appointing counsel.  There were four cases of interest.

Steal That Plywood

According to the witness, Mr. X (didn’t catch the name; it’s hard to hear in there; see below) and another person stopped their pickup in the alley at 1:57 AM, looked around, and loaded up the plywood that was stacked in the back yard of the witness’ neighbor. 

The purpose of this preliminary hearing was to determine whether there was probable cause to send the case to the grand jury.  Judge Hicks dismissed the case because there was no evidence that Mr. X (or the other person in the truck) did not own or otherwise have a right to to plywood.  That strikes me as strange on two counts:

  • Nobody stops in the alley, looks about, and picks up his own plywood at 01:57; and
  • The standard of proof here is “some evidence to support a charge,” not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Absent the finding of probable cause, the Commonwealth said they will indict, so Mr. X will get his case heard by the grand jury anyhow. 

No harm, no foul.

Back to the Drug Market

Mr. Jackson was picked up walking away from a rental vehicle with the keys; he was not the renter.  There were sixteen packages of heroin and several rocks of crack in the car.  His record includes two counts of distribution, one of contempt, one of possession w intent.  The defense argued that one of those was as a juvenile; to me that just argues that he broke bad young.  He has no history of violent crime.

This guy is a dealer.  He started young and this time he got caught with his inventory.  Yet Judge Hicks turned him loose on a mere $5,000 bond.  I don’t know what kind of pressure our full jail is putting on the judges; unless it is intense, I say: Leave this guy in the slammer where it will be much harder to ply his trade.

Maybe Criminal, Vastly Unwise

Mr. Lewis has a steady job, friends, and relatives.  He is charged with attempted murder and reckless handling of a firearm for shooting toward(?) a person he says was slashing his tires.  (Wish we knew more about that!)

There were no injuries but he didn’t tell the cops about the knife.

$10K bond, no contact with the shootee, home electronic monitoring.  Looks like a good call by the judge.

Note added on Sunday after rereading this: Notice, please, that the judge stuck this otherwise upstanding citizen for a $10K bond and let the dealer off for $5K.  Something wrong here.

Heartbreaker

Mr. Y (sounded like “Chapelle”) has a drug problem.  He completed a supervised probation but stopped the methadone treatment when his mom could no longer pay the $15/day. 

Perhaps he lacked employment that would let him pay for the methadone.  In any case, he was an inept dealer: He sold drugs to a “cooperator.” 

Judge Hicks ordered a $5K bond, referral to pretrial services, and electronic monitoring.  With the monitoring, it will be very hard for him to get back into the market so I can’t criticize the judge.

This guy is in the thrall of his addiction.  Aside from the damage to him, his mother, grandmother, and uncle were in court and probably will have to find the $500 or whatever it costs these days to fund the $5K bond; if they are more wise than loving, they’ll leave him in jail.  He is breaking Louise’s and my hearts; it hurts to imagine what he is doing to his relatives.

Conclusion

Insufficient data.  I’ll have to invite Louise (and anybody else who might be interested) for another visit or two or three.

In General

The new Manchester courthouse is palatial.  The huge courtroom was nearly full. 

The acoustics aren’t great.  The judge, clerk,  and lawyers all speak softly so, despite the microphones,  it is VERY hard to follow the proceedings. 

After the “all rise,” Judge Hicks gave a nice talk about this courtroom being a place to see democracy in action; it’s too bad we couldn’t hear it in action.