New York’s legislative leaders all but declared Mayor Adams’ plan to amend the state’s controversial bail-reform laws dead on arrival Tuesday — even as a top court official said judges largely agreed with his desire to let them lock up potentially dangerous defendants.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) also said they opposed Adams’ efforts to roll back the Raise the Age law so gun-toting teens can be prosecuted in criminal court.
Stewart-Cousins told reporters in Albany that attacking the 2019 bail-reform measures signed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo “became a mantra because it’s easy.”
“I mean, it’s unfortunate that people have found that this is a very easy way to sort of demonize one side and, and not do much work,” she said.
Stewart-Cousins also said that giving judges more discretion in setting or denying bail would disproportionately affect “black and brown and poor defendants.”
During a separate Q&A session with reporters in Albany, Heastie said, “We’re gonna have a lot of discussions about this” but added, “I do think there are certain things that people could do in terms of, you could stop the misinformation.”
“Can we stop blaming bail reform when the sun comes out?” he said, sounding annoyed.
“Can we stop just trying to make, you know, political fodder because we think it’ll, it’ll make for good campaigns? Because I really think that’s doing a disservice to the people.”
Meanwhile, state Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks told lawmakers that the state’s judges agreed with Adams that they should have greater control over whether to release defendants.
“Many judges — we’ve got most of our judges who sit on criminal cases — would like more discretion in making determinations about bail and release of people accused of crimes,” Marks said during a budget hearing in Albany.
The state’s judiciary doesn’t “have a formal proposal,” Marks said, before adding that he wasn’t “speaking for 100% of our judges.”
“But I think it’s fair to say that individual judges would like to have more discretion in making these decisions and feel that they would be able to fairly and effectively make decisions on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Under the bail-reform laws, judges can’t order defendants charged with most misdemeanors and some felonies to post bail before being freed from custody and can otherwise only impose the “least restrictive” conditions that will ensure defendants return to court.
Adams said Monday that he would use statistics on increased teen shootings to lobby for changes to the 2017 Raise the Age law that sends most 15- and 16-year-old defendants to Family Court instead of criminal court.
But Stewart-Cousins insisted that “when we raised the age from criminal responsibility it was based on science.”
“What you do when you’re 16 or 15 or whatever, is not what you would do with a fully mature brain in many instances,” she said.
Heastie also said, ”A lot of the concerns around ‘Raise the Age’ could really be dealt with in terms of the Probation Department and pretrial services because they get to decide what are the pretrial services that people have before they have to show up to court.”
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