LI: End Judge Bail Power As in Puerto Rico? Analysis.

Puerto Rico currently is the only place in the Western hemisphere where all people, including those charged with rape and murder, are always entitled to bail. They don’t have the power to deny bail in low-crime Puerto Rico, but the US religious  extreme right aided by lawyers hoping for a payday to solve a non-problem in the low cime jurisdiction keep pressing…and  is trying to end that Libertarian initiated policy  in a vast disinformation campaign, say critics. (‘Clearly dangerous’ cases are handled by civil commitment-type processes)…Many feel bail has become a racket, with people being wiped out financially by even modest bail…and instead of being insurance for appearance, is used to manipulate the case or express social disapproval.

The real issue: It’s time to extend the PR system to all nations.


Puerto Rico bail referendum sparks rights debate

By DANICA COTO, Associated Press –!uchpBK-CNFmZrNLZSw%2Fd%3D1#id=I1_1338852156497&

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A day after his teenage son was killed in a drive-by shooting, Luis Arvelo found some comfort in the arrest of a body shop worker suspected in the slaying. But that quickly evaporated hours later when he learned the man had been freed after posting a $33,000 bail bond.

Puerto Rico currently is the only place in the Western hemisphere where all people, including those charged with rape and murder, are always entitled to bail. But under an upcoming referendum that would allow judges in the U.S. territory to deny bail in certain cases, the man charged with killing Arvelo’s son could have remained behind bars.

The referendum has sparked a debate on the island about the rights of suspects and those of victims and their families.

“It was painful to see this person and know that my son is 7 feet underground and he was out on the street,” Arvelo said.

The right to bail has long been enshrined in the U.S. territory as a legacy of the islanders’ historic distrust of American authorities, and Puerto Ricans have defended an individual’s right to freedom, especially those who have been marginalized.

Elsewhere in Latin America and across the Caribbean, it’s common for suspects to languish in jails even if they haven’t been charged with anything. In the U.S., meanwhile, judges have the right to deny bail if someone has been charged with a violent crime or if prosecutors prove the suspect is a danger to the community or at risk of fleeing.

In Puerto Rico, legislators see the referendum as a way to fight crime and the perception among many that the violence is out of control, with police reporting a record number of killings last year. Gov. Luis Fortuno, whose party supports statehood, also seeks to align himself with U.S. authorities during an election year as Puerto Rico prepares for an unrelated referendum that would help decide the future of the island’s political status.

Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, its federal judges have the right to deny bail, and they have done so for 264 suspects out of 280 arrested for violent crimes, Fortuno said. “It is time that judges in Puerto Rico tribunals have the same discretion,” he said.

The leader of Puerto Rico’s main opposition party also supports the referendum, which is among several measures to fight crime, including a plan to create courts that will deal exclusively with murder cases and authorize the permanent revocation of bail for those charged with killing security guards, police officers and other judicial officials.

If approved by voters on Aug. 19, the measure would allow judges to refuse bail for certain kinds of murders: those that were pre-meditated, committed during a home invasion, during a sexual assault or kidnapping, or during a drive-by shooting, or targeting public officials.

However, voters in 1994 rejected a similar referendum, with 46 percent in favor and 54 percent against. Legislators said that earlier measure lost because it was too far-reaching and would have allowed judges to deny bail in any case, regardless of the crime involved.

In the latest referendum effort, a committee to fight the measure was formed last month by several prominent groups and institutions including Puerto Rico’s Association of Lawyers, a local private university and the Council of Churches. “They are massacring the constitution of Puerto Rico,” former senator Victoria Munoz Mendoza said at the committee’s first meeting.

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