’No comment’: Magistrates response after Court Watch blames justice system for violent crime

Debating the usage of electronic monitoring

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police invited a private organization to speak at their weekly press conference on Wednesday, which was focused in its belief that the justice system was partially to blame for Charlotte’s uptick in violent crime.

WBTV News was told that Judge Miller and Magistrate Rhodes didn’t have a comment on the subject.

“These are the three areas giving the criminal justice system the most problem. Bad policy, lack of common sense and poor leadership,” said Marcus Philemon who runs CharMeck Court Watch. Court Watch serves as a grassroots organization acting as the watchdog for Charlotte’s court systems.

“We just need to come up with resolutions and solutions,” he said.

Philemon disagrees with the bail policy judges and magistrates use. According to Philemon, it usually leads to more electronic ankle monitoring, instead of people being kept in jail because they couldn’t pay their bond. He said this leads to violent criminals being out on bond available to commit more violent crime.

“I have an example this week, last week, prior weeks, months ago, years ago, that public safety is not being considered when the bond rates are being set,” Philemon said referencing a stack of cases he believes backs up his theory.

There are some recent cases that fall into this idea, including a 15-year-old who was arrested last week for rape after being released on bond for an unrelated charge. But a criminal defense attorney we talked with on Wednesday said in his experience that kind of thing doesn’t happen often.

“There are plenty of people who are out on pre-trial release, or ankle monitoring, who are following the rules, are working, are paying taxes, are doing all the things that we claim that we want people to do who come into the criminal justice system," said criminal defense attorney, Tim Emry.

Emry believes most people who get released on bond are doing the right thing. He said many times, the old system negatively affected people who didn’t have the resources to get themselves out of jail.

“It keeps them in jail, simply because they can’t pay their bond,” Emry said. “I’ve had people innocent of their crimes who say their guilty because they don’t want to spend nine additional months in jail waiting on a trial.”

The magistrates didn’t have a comment but in the past have said this policy is abiding by the law, which allows people the chance to be out of jail while waiting for a trial.

“For the police department to blame their woes on a program that is trying to reform the deeply systemically racist criminal justice system is misguided,” Emry said.

Although the Magistrate’s office couldn’t comment on the matter, they did point us to research published about its own polices. That research found that although Mecklenburg County released more defendants, it didn’t see a big increase in new criminal charges during pre-trial periods.

The chief of police said in the same press conference that he hoped that court systems are held accountable for their role in making sure violent criminals aren’t on the street, just as police are held to the same standard.

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