$250K Bail For 12 Year Old

by TChris

The first six words of the Eighth Amendment: "Excessive bail shall not be required ...." Perhaps the Boston judge who set $250,000 bail for a 12 year old should look up the word "excessive."

Judge Paul D. Lewis railed against urban youth violence Tuesday after he set cash bail for the South End boy, who Boston police said was found with a loaded gun on Monday.

Urban violence is of concern to everyone, but setting excessive bail to "send a message" is an affront to the Eighth Amendment. The kid is charged with possessing a gun, not with shooting someone. He's presumed innocent of that charge, but even if he's eventually convicted, he faces no more than Department of Youth Services supervision until he's 18. He has no real incentive (and probably no ability) to flee, making it inappropriate to set high cash bail.

Bail is to ensure that a defendant shows up to court, not to make a point, [Lael] Chester [executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice] said. "As an advocate, I would never say we shouldn't have [bail set]," Chester said, "but you want to make sure it's done fairly, accurately, and justly."

The judge claimed that he evaluated the boy's flight risk and that "sending a message" was a mere byproduct of his bail decision. But a 12 year old with no money and no chance to find a job to support himself isn't a serious flight risk. In any event, the judge's comments show that he wasn't concerned with the likelihood that the kid would show up in court. He criticized "parental apathy" and he accused juvenile offenders of "not taking responsibility for their actions." Sounds like a judge using a bail hearing as a soap box.

It also sounds like a judge who isn't paying attention to crime rates.

Advocates also criticized Lewis for his comments that youth violence is "out of control."

"Juvenile crime is at an all-time low," Chester said. "I think his comments sort of make people think we're in a crime wave."

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    Re: $250K Bail For 12 Year Old (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:46 PM EST
    Right on TChris. If the judge wants to "send a message", he should give a speech or petition his elected representatives. To heap a societal ill on the shoulders of one 12 year old kid is pretty outrageous.

    Re: $250K Bail For 12 Year Old (none / 0) (#2)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:46 PM EST
    What kind of people are these judges that our society has produced [...] they've lost their ability to see the defendant as a human being
    Sort of cross-posting, but some of the comments I posted in "Reefer Madness in the 8th Circuit" apply to this as well, I think... no reefers involved, but definitley some uneeded "madness" here too... Are we losing our collective minds?

    Re: $250K Bail For 12 Year Old (none / 0) (#3)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:46 PM EST
    Is this what the right trash means when they scream activist judges? Where are they now? Que crickets.

    Re: $250K Bail For 12 Year Old (none / 0) (#4)
    by jen on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:46 PM EST
    were his parents well off enough to amscray with the kid?

    Re: $250K Bail For 12 Year Old (none / 0) (#5)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:47 PM EST
    As much as it kills me to agree with TChris, this one does sound way out of line. My understanding is that bail is generally based on the accused's ability to pay. While the economic background of the kid's mom is not expressly stated in any of the articles I googled, she does appear to be a single mother working as a nurse's assistant and lives in Boston's South End, so it would not appear that she is wealthy.