by Tami Kamin Meyer
A recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling focusing on considerations a judge weighs when setting bail has led to activity in the Ohio Statehouse.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost expressed so much concern about the court’s 4-3 decision in DuBose vs. McGuffey, a ruling that upheld an appellate court’s decision permitting the reduction of a murder suspect’s bail without considering community safety, that he recently announced his support for a proposed constitutional amendment regarding bail reform.
Yost said he joined forces with Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters and three state legislators to create an amendment that would require Ohio judges to consider community safety when setting bail.
“There’s a difference between a presumption of innocence in court and pretending that a career criminal is no threat on the street,” Yost said recently at a press conference. “This constitutional amendment is necessary to make our communities safe.”
He is hopeful the proposed amendment will be on the November ballot.
In introducing House Bill 607 and House Joint Resolution 2, Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Pickerington, said, “Public safety should be top priority, but the court’s decision has put Ohioans at risk.”
Although current Ohio law allows judges to consider the risk to public safety when determining bond, the constitutional amendment would require it. Other factors Ohio judges may currently consider include the seriousness of the criminal charges, the defendant’s prior criminal record and the likelihood the alleged perpetrator would appear at trial if they were out on bond.
One of the four justices who voted in favor of upholding the appellate court’s ruling was Jennifer Brunner, who was elected to the state’s highest court in 2020.
Following the DuBose decision, Brunner issued a statement saying “We can be fair but careful, protecting the rights of the accused while also protecting public safety. To suggest we have to pick one over the other is divisive, reckless and perpetuates the same tired old politics that Ohioans have had enough of.”
Brunner’s comments seem to contradict her support of the appellate court’s decision to cut DuBose’s bail from $1.5 million to $500,000 due to his impoverished life, despite the seriousness of the charges. While incarcerated in the Hamilton County jail for murder and other felonies, DuBose successfully persuaded the appellate court that his inability to pay what he called an excessive bond violated his rights.
In expressing support for Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315, Ohio Sen. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, wrote in an email, “Senate Bill 182 allows judges to use many tools to ensure appearance at trial. The people awaiting trial will benefit because those with the least ability to pay will not languish in jail, and the public will benefit because release will be determined on factors unrelated to the ability to pay for bail.”
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