Waiting For Trial in NY

Thursday, September 19, 2013

jail cell prison cell (TunnelBug/flickr)

Robert Lewis, WNYC investigative reporter talks about lengthy pre-trial detentions and why so many languish in jail because they can't make bail.



Robert Lewis

Comments [19]

Jeff from New Brunswick, NJ

Regarding whether or not prosecutors sit on cases in order to get pleas: it's stated by prosecutors that cases don't age well. However, a more nuanced take that incorporates some of the prosecutors' incentives might be instructive.

Prosecutors are evaluated on conviction rate; the worst case outcome is an acquittal or dropped charges. I do not believe that the prosecutors' office pays for the ongoing costs of incarcerating suspects. Combine these with the accepted principal that "cases don't age well" leads to a couple of outcomes:

1) Cases where the prosecutor has a high likelihood of winning will be pushed to trial quickly.
2) Cases where the prosecutor has a low likelihood (or no likelihood) of winning will be dragged out in the hopes of wearing a defendant down into a plea deal. Are prosecutors evaluated on sentences? A plea and a sentence of time served is an excellent outcome for the prosecutor for these cases.

Sep. 19 2013 11:12 AM

@John from office:

First, the guy who is an admitted drug dealer who was involved in a murder doesn't get the $500 bail. He gets the $50K bail or a remand.

Second, its important that these people go to trial in a timely fashion because the longer the case sits on the docket, the less likely the prosecution will get a conviction. The NY Times had an article about the problem with trial lengths. There was a manslaughter trial in the Bronx that took over three years. By the time the case was going to trial, one of the witnesses was dead, they couldn't find other witnesses who made police statements and the detective on the case couldn't remember the details of the case. Not a winning formula for a conviction.

Sep. 19 2013 11:00 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This is all about equality before the law.

Sure, some of these guys might be scumbags or even guilty but is it Just for guilty rich scumbags to post bail and get off on because their attorneys cut a deal? Poor people are always forced to plead out because whether they are guilty or not the poor and especially the working poor who will typically lose their menial hourly wage jobs if they're locked up for any length of time. Technology makes it cheap and easy to put 90% of nonviolent suspects out on home arrest monitoring with exceptions for work. There is no reason not to explore this. In the age of tech a conviction even for a misdemeanor can destroy a career, there is no way to erase it - we're destroying the chances for people to actually work and contribute to society.

Sep. 19 2013 10:48 AM
Chantal from NY / DC

I worked for the office of the appellate defender in nyc (a public defender) this summer as a legal intern and these delays are so pervasive that they're normal.
a ny times article I read a few months back sums it up well -- The state’s “speedy trial” law sets a target of 180 days — 6 months — after an arraignment, for most felony trials to begin. There is no target for homicides. But in practice, there are many ways to stretch that limit: court scheduling delays do not count toward that time limit and prosecutors can pause the clock by asking for a few days postponement when the court cannot reschedule a case for months.

Sep. 19 2013 10:46 AM

Kooky segment. It sounds like the gripe here is that there is a bail system in place? When actually, the problem in this area seems like the trial does not come quickly enough.

Anyway, it is more irritating that rich lawbreakers *can* make bail, not when poor ones cannot.

Sep. 19 2013 10:46 AM
Alisa Wellek from New York, NY

One important impacted group that hasn't been mentioned is immigrants, including greencard holders, asylees, and undocumented people. If Immigration & Customs Enforcement is even interested in the person, they can lodge what is called a "detainer" on them. In most cases, NYC will turn these people over to immigration if they pay bail. I work at a nonprofit organization called the Immigrant Defense Project and go to Rikers all the time. I see people even people charged with relatively minor offenses of with minor past offenses that then often choose not to pay bail for this reason. The City has passed some legislation to limit turning people over to immigration, but it only applies to a small number of people.

Sep. 19 2013 10:45 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

By the way let’s make sure we go around world and tell everyone what a great and just democracy America is.

Sep. 19 2013 10:45 AM
Bob from Pelham, NY

The Village Voice published two articles on this issue in 2012:


Can Mr. Lewis talk about if there has been any improvement or action since then?

Sep. 19 2013 10:45 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Really? For listeners who understand "right to speedy trial" as sacrosanct, the journalist did NOT explore the constitutional aspect? Gimme a break. I'm noticing more and more of such spotty reporting on WNYC lately. SMH.

Sep. 19 2013 10:43 AM
jf from HELL

A government should never be put in the position of profiting off of peoples mistakes. I THINK IT'S CALLED A PERVERSE INCENTIVE.

Sep. 19 2013 10:42 AM
Ron from Manhattan

We need a lobby group as strong as the NRA, because if in this environment of the Wild West with gun touting mental cases shooting up innocent people, yet NOTHING being achieved to control the distribution of guns, then we could use a strong group to lobby and sue the state for each and every individual who does not get a speedy trial. Seems THIS is a constitutional right worth protecting.

Sep. 19 2013 10:40 AM
Bob from Pelham, NY

Can you ask Mr. Lewis the status of the Bronx Freedom Fund and similar non-profit efforts to help people accused of non-violent misdemeanors post bail?

Sep. 19 2013 10:40 AM
JF from dystopia

This is the modern slave trade. Ech prison extorts 150,000 dollar per head.

Sep. 19 2013 10:39 AM


Sep. 19 2013 10:37 AM
john from office

Think of all the crimes that we prevented by having this young man in Jail. He was an admitted drug dealer, skipping school, who was involved in a murder. The murder victim did not kill himself. He also admits to having a gun at the murder scene. I think society was better off with him off the streets. He is no hero.

Sep. 19 2013 10:36 AM
jf from reality

private prison corporations pay lobbyists millions to make billions of dollars in human slavery.

Sep. 19 2013 10:35 AM

Is there an actual balance of "over-served" days? If not, then it's a non issue compared to the alternative.

Sep. 19 2013 10:33 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Please, how is this constitutional? Please clarify for listeners.

Sep. 19 2013 10:31 AM

The guy who was interviewed on WNYC is in jail awaiting trial/sentencing for vehicular homicide, and is frustrated that he can't be serving his time in "a better prison." As a pedestrian and driver, I am not inclined to give a sh*t about what he thinks.

Sep. 19 2013 10:20 AM

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