Letter to the Editor – Bail Reform is needed

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I write in response to your article, “Hit-and-Run Killing.” I am a public defense lawyer, local resident, and someone who believes in bail reform. The critical need for these reforms is not changed by the tragedy of the untimely death of Marie Rosie Osai, a local resident beloved by her community.

The fact is that pre-trial bail distorts justice.  According to the Vera Institute, people who were incarcerated awaiting trial were more likely to receive jail sentences and typically ended up with sentences 2-3 times as long as those who made bail. Under a cash bail system, this means that a person’s punishment is largely determined by whether they can afford to pay.  Nor is cash bail necessary to insure people report to court.  Studies of New York bail funds found that, when bailed out by non-profits, 95% of people returned for all courts dates.

A man was arrested in the accident that killed Marie Rosie Osai, and he will stand trial on felony charges.  Assemblymember Schmitt wants that arrest to launch the man’s punishment rather than his trial. Unless Schmitt does not believe that each of us deserves due process and is innocent until proven guilty, his call for “justice for Rosie” cannot be a call to lock this man up. It must be a call to use the evidence to bring this man to a full and fair trial. A fair trial is not one which he awaits in jail if he is poor, or at home, if he is rich.

Thank you,

Laurie Dick

Beacon, New York