Industry, Victim’s Mother Challenge NJ Bail Overhaul

Most New Jersey defendants are released without the need to post bail. The mother of homicide victim Christian Rodgers, 26, has joined the bail industry in a lawsuit challenging the policy change.

The mother of a New Jersey homicide victim has joined the bail-bond industry to file suit challenging the state’s move to eliminate bail, the Wall Street Journal reports. The bail overhaul is based on legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2014 and a constitutional amendment approved by voters. The changes have drawn praise from criminal-justice advocates. The bail-bond business views them as an existential threat. On April 5, Jules Black, 30, was driving in Cumberland County, N.J., when he was pulled over for using his cellphone. The officer smelled marijuana and, after searching the car, arrested him for possessing a handgun. Black was released and wasn’t required to post bail. Four days later, police said, he fatally shot Christian Rodgers, 26.

Just 19 New Jersey defendants from January through June were granted bail. Most others were released, jailed or assigned pretrial monitoring. Rodgers’s mother, June Rodgers, said some family members told her “this bail reform thing was going on and they had let [Mr. Black] out with no bail, no bond or anything. I felt that system failed my son.” Under the old system, New Jersey residents had a right to bail; even defendants accused of the most serious crimes couldn’t be held without bail. In recent years, questions of fairness arose because low-income defendants who couldn’t afford bail were held in jail until trial, while wealthier defendants, including those accused of the same crimes, went free because they had the means to pay the bail. The number of people in jails awaiting trial on June 30 was 5,700, down from 8,800 two years earlier.