Court Information Office
Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
For Immediate Release
PRETRIAL RELEASE PROJECT ADVISORY
(ANNAPOLIS, MD—February 27, 2002) Late last year, the Pretrial Release Project Advisory Committee, created by Maryland Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, issued a landmark report on the current pretrial release procedures in the State. The reported provided recommendations for improvement, including the creation of a statewide pretrial release agency; the guarantee of legal representation by counsel at initial appearances and bail review hearings for the accused; and an expansion of alternative modes for releasing defendants pending trial while ensuring that the defendant is not a danger and appears for trial.
Legislation that would fulfill the
Committee’s recommendation mandating public defender representation at
all review hearings for indigent defendants has been sponsored by Sen.
Leo Green. On March 6, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear
testimony on the legislation, SB9, by C. Carey Deeley, Jr., chair of the
Pretrial Release Project Advisory Committee.
“I want to clarify that the Maryland Judiciary’s Pretrial Release Project Advisory Committee is not part of this ‘numbers game’ as to ‘how many people are wrongfully detained or released too early,’ whether by bail or otherwise,” said Deeley. “While the Advisory Committee had the benefit of views and research from Professor Colbert, the focus of the Advisory Committee was much broader than his study, which was funded by the Abell Foundation.”
The Advisory Committee looked at pretrial release practices statewide and the need, if any, for changes, concerned that “so long as one person remains needlessly in custody or is released too early or without conditions that respect the particular circumstances of the matter, the pretrial release process fails,” said Deeley.
The Advisory Committee, therefore, emphasized getting as much verified information as possible into the hands of decision-makers as soon as possible–not anticipating that different release or detention decisions will necessarily be made; but, rather, believing that proper implementation of the law, with respect for the respective rights of defendants and victims, means that decision- makers must have reliable information. A Statewide pretrial services program, defense and prosecutorial input at release hearings, and substance abuse and other support programs for persons awaiting trial all could avoid unnecessary detention and unwarranted release of arrestees.
“This difference in approach between
the Advisory Committee and Professor Colbert allowed the Advisory Committee
to direct attention to issues other than the long standing, contentious
The formation of the Pretrial Release Project Advisory Committee was the result of Professor Colbert’s request to Chief Judge Bell for assistance and support for a study of pretrial procedures and practices in Baltimore City, an outgrowth of the Professor’s earlier Lawyers At Bail Project in 2000. The Chief Judge believed, however, that a more comprehensive study, with participation of the various agencies of the criminal justice system, could lead to recommendations for a broader range of changes in practice and procedure, for the betterment of the criminal justice system statewide. After soliciting recommendations from leaders in the court system, several bar associations, and various public agencies, a committee was established that represented the needs and viewpoints of the criminal justice system.
For more information, please contact Mr. Deeley’s office at 410/494-6259