Judges Are Not Reclusive Woodland Creatures, Shy, Moss-Tripping Fauns

When are judges who let murderers out on bond and release other violent offenders going to stop hiding from the public and start answering some questions?  From today’s (on-line only?)  AJC:

District Attorney Paul Howard . . . wants to determine why indicted murder defendants in Fulton County are being released on bond and why non-elected magistrate judges have been the ones granting bond.  Howard said 43 indicted murder defendants are out on bond. . . Fulton County magistrate Judge Karen Woodson granted [Antoine] Wimes $250,000 bond in March, even though the District Attorney’s Office and Pretrial Services officers opposed it.  Wimes was charged with murder in the July 2008 shooting death of a convenience store clerk.

Judge Woodson has had nothing to say about her decision to let Wimes go, after which he shot a young Atlanta mother and viciously beat her one-year old infant.

How about the judges in the other 42 bonded-out murder cases?  43 accused murderers are out on bond in Fulton County alone.  How many in Dekalb County?  Are they all accounted for?  Have any of them been brought in on other charges?  What happened then?  Cut loose a second time?

That must be one astonishingly well-behaved cohort of accused murderers.  No wonder it’s so hard to get witnesses to cooperate: when the D.A. can’t even guarantee that he can keep the murder defendant off the streets because the judge may let him walk, over the D.A.’s objections, the system is broken.

Meanwhile, the DeKalb Superior Court must be hoping the public has forgotten about Judge Cynthia Becker, whose courtroom errors resulted in the inappropriate release of soon-to-be killer Shamal Thompson.  Becker has neither apologized nor admitted responsibility, and there have apparently been no efforts on the part of the Council of Superior Court Judges to investigate the practices that led to not one, but two different judges reducing charges against Thompson that should not have been treated that way — you know, by the sentencing guidelines of Georgia they’re supposed to uphold.

Are there no consequences if you are a judge?  I’m almost tempted to say that they might identify less with offenders if they didn’t see themselves as above the law.

Hopefully the media will stay on this story (and one way, in these times, to keep the focus on stories like this is to subscribe to the newspaper and inform the subscription department that you’re paying for investigations like this one).

Paul Howard is right to publicize the problem of murderers and other violent offenders out on bond: he deserves vocal public support for his position here.

And if this isn’t an argument for demanding full, on-line disclosure of all ongoing and completed criminal case dispositions, I don’t know a better one.  Smaller counties are already doing it: a technology capital like Atlanta has no excuses except this one:

They don’t want you to know what’s going on in the courts.


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