Deputy Public Defender Blasts SF Judge Over No-Bail Policy in Courtroom that ‘Harkens Back to Decades Ago’

By Ned Meiners and Esme Lipton

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Martina Avalos appeared to take Judge Richard C. Darwin to task for his ordering no bail for defendant Eric Anthony Jones last week here in San Francisco County Superior Court, Dept. 9.

“[This courtroom] seems to harken back to decades ago,” Avalos claimed. “It’s confusing that we’ve regressed.”

Jones is charged with several counts of second-degree burglary, for which bail is set at $50,000. He is also on probation for a previous burglary conviction. The judge ordered a Motion to Revoke (or MTR) the terms of probation, and it is for these probation violations that Judge Darwin ordered no bail. Jones has three MTRs total.

According to Avalos, Judge Dawkin’s courtroom is unique in this regard. She maintains that other courtrooms in San Francisco do not typically order no bail for violating probation.

“This is one of the few courtrooms that retains no bail on MTRs,” stated the attorney. In her opinion, in a different court in San Francisco, Jones would be granted bail, or released.

For Avalos, the facts favored Jones’ release from county jail. Jones has not had a felony conviction in the last five years.

“We do not detain people simply as a means of preventing future crime,” argued Avalos, clearly dismayed.

When determining bail, there are two factors the court is supposed to take into account: the likelihood the defendant will fail to appear for the court date and whether or not the defendant poses a threat to public or victim safety.

In this instance, Jones’ offenses are all non-violent. The prosecution did not cite an example of Jones missing his court date or posing a threat to anyone.

In spite of this, Judge Darwin was unmoved. He countered that he did not believe his courtroom was unusual for ordering no bail, and felt it was warranted in this circumstance.

Although Avalos was the appointed public defender for Jones, the defendant has suggested he has a private attorney who will appear on his behalf. Until his private counsel arrives Avalos will continue to represent him.

Although bail was not granted in this instance, Jones will have another opportunity to address the issue in this or another case.

About The Author

Ned Meiners lives and works in San Francisco. He received his paralegal certification from City College.

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