Mayor scolds judge for bail of $35,000 in boy's shooting

Prosecutors didn't attend to argue for higher figure

July 25, 2002|By Allison Klein and Josh Mitchell | Allison Klein and Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

With a man out on bail yesterday and back on the block where he is alleged to have shot a 10-year-old boy, Mayor Martin O'Malley blasted the judge who released the suspect and said the city will start a new judicial watchdog program.

"It's appalling," O'Malley said of the situation, which has sent the suspect home to a neighborhood where he lives 12 houses away from the victim.

"The judge should have known - anyone should have known, without even going to law school - that person should not have been set free on a $35,000 bail."

His remarks, after 24 people were killed during a 25-day span in the city, set off a chain reaction of finger-pointing by the state's attorney's office, the judiciary and the police, who blamed one another yesterday for the release of 19-year-old Perry Spain.

Spain, accused in the July 15 shooting of Tevin Montrel Davis, was released Friday after a hearing at which police and prosecutors did not show up to argue for a higher bail.

District Court Judge George M. Lipman, who set the bail, was supported yesterday by the city's chief district court judge, who said Lipman acted appropriately given the information presented at the hearing.

"A judge makes a decision based on the evidence before him," said District Court Administrative Judge Keith E. Mathews.

"If you listen to the tape, the evidence before him led him to the decision he made. There was no police officer or assistant state's attorney there."

Tevin was hit in the neck by a stray bullet as he sat on his West Baltimore porch with his father.

`Slap in the face'

The child's mother, Antoinette Davis, said her son is afraid to stay in the neighborhood, and she called the bail hearing "a slap in the face."

"It gives the public mixed signals, basically," said Davis, 36. "One minute the commissioner and everybody is saying crime is down and people that do crimes are going to suffer. But then they let him out on bail. That's like saying, `OK, you do a crime but we'll let you out till you go to court.'"

O'Malley was so incensed about the bail issue yesterday that he said he will form a citizens group to visit city courtrooms to monitor gun cases and report judges who do not follow state sentencing guidelines.

A review of the bail hearing at the district courthouse on Wabash Avenue shows that the judge got little help from prosecutors in assessing Spain's case.

Meanwhile, Spain's lawyer, Warren A. Brown, was present to extol his client's reputation.

"This young man is known as a kind, compassionate, giving individual," Brown told the judge. "He's not a danger to anyone in the neighborhood."

On the other side

In an apparent attempt to hear from the other side, Lipman asked: "Is there any state's attorney involved in this case at all here today?"

"No, sir," answered Roland Bevins, who was there on behalf of pretrial services. Pretrial officials such as Bevins are not prosecutors, but provide assistance to court officials.

Bevins requested that Spain be held without bail, but he had difficulty arguing his case to the judge.

Lipman asked him: "And you haven't had any information from the state or the police in addition to the statement of charges to convey to me?"

Bevins: "No additional information, Your Honor."

Lipman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy held an afternoon news conference yesterday to defend the state's attorney's office, saying prosecutors failed to show up at Spain's bail hearing because they did not know about it.

Police did not report his arrest to her office as they should, based on protocol, she said.

"The Police Department failed and did not follow through there," Jessamy said.

Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, called it "unfair" to blame her office for not showing up for the hearing.

"When the mayor is spouting off about this, he should check with his own police department," Burns said.

Burns also noted that Jessamy went to a meeting of criminal justice officials in May and recommended that all bail hearings involving offenders accused of violent crimes be scheduled at the city's central booking facility, rather than a courthouse.

Prosecutors have offices at the facility and could attend all such bail hearings, Burns said.

Col. Robert M. Stanton, commander of the city police criminal investigation division, said he doesn't know why officers didn't contact the state's attorney's office about the Spain case.

He said it is not common for police to show up at bail review hearings, calling it "the rare exception."

Stanton also said Spain's arrest was prominent in the news, meaning the state's attorney's office could have easily learned about the hearing.

"We could have and should have, and they could have and should have," Stanton said. "It's not unfair to say they should be cognizant of what goes on in the community."

At the bail hearing, Spain was instructed not to have contact with the victim or witnesses and told he must adhere to a 10 p.m. curfew.

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