Behold the breadth of brazenness in our two-tiered justice system. In one America, we have career violent criminals released on low bail after murder and attempted murder, when the victim is terrified the criminal will attack again if not jailed. In the other America, we have Trump supporters arrested for nonviolent acts of "trespassing" upon public property when Capitol Police held the doors to the building open — yet they are kept in jail for months without bail, despite no criminal record.
Earlier this week, WMC-TV news in Memphis reported on Lachrisa Oliver, a Memphis woman who survived a shooting in March who must now deal with the release of the alleged perpetrators into her neighborhood headed into the trial. Tajuana and Teuana Ayers, along with an unnamed juvenile suspect, were arrested for a March 3 shooting that left Lachrisa in critical condition and her nephew dead on her doorstep. Shockingly, Tajuana and Teuana, despite the murder and attempted murder charges, were released on just $15,000 and $25,000 bonds respectively.
What's even more shocking is that Tajuana, 42, had a history of over a dozen arrests dating back to 2001, which included theft, aggravated assault, and attempted murder. During the alleged March murder, the suspect was actually out on bond for an attempted murder case when she was charged with shooting at a motorist after being involved in a car crash outside a Memphis high school in 2019.
It is the career violent criminals who face serious charges but are released on bail who are committing most of the murders in this country. Yet even after the murder, she was released on just $15,000 bond!
What's worse is that this is the ultimate case where the suspect needs to be taken off the street. Given that there is a surviving victim who will also be the main witness in the trial to identify the suspect in the murder case, this is a textbook case for holding the suspect without bail.
Oliver fears for her life and wants to move because the suspects live in the neighborhood. "I do not sleep. I don't sleep. I don't eat. I don't do anything. I'm tired of being locked up here. It's not fair," said Oliver.
Now, with this case fresh in your mind, let's travel back to Jan. 6. Tim Hale is a Navy Reservist who attended the Stop the Steal rally at the Capitol dressed in a suit and without a weapon. The court opinion denying his appeal to be released admits that he never engaged in violence. They have nothing but a statement from a "confidential human source" stating he admitted to having merely been in the Capitol building and left after the shooting of Ashli Babbitt.
Unlike in the case of Tajuana Ayers and thousands of career violent murder suspects, Hale is in the military with a security clearance, is employed with no criminal record, poses no general threat or threat to an individual victim, and is not accused of anything more than being in the Capitol. Yet his motion for release was denied this week, meaning he will remain imprisoned indefinitely without the chance of posting bail.
The court admitted that it is unprecedented to hold Hale, but cited his "history of racist and violent language and the fact that he is been generally engaged in hateful conduct" as pretext for violating the principle, "We don't normally penalize people for what they say."
In other words, if you say the election was stolen, you are held without bail, but if you actually are accused of murder after racking up a 20-year criminal history and having no stable job keeping you in place for trial, you are let go on low bail.
In Hale's case, the D.C. appeals court cited his use of Thomas Jefferson's quotes about watering the tree of liberty with revolution from time to time as proof he was a danger to the community, despite his record, his military service, and his job as a contractor at Naval Weapons Station Earle. Prior aggravated assaults and shootings, though, do not count as evidence of a pretrial threat, of course, if the accused is of the right ilk.
We no longer live in a republic with equal justice under the law. Under our long-standing English common law tradition, setting various levels of bail was the best way to balance the freedom of those presumed innocent unless proven guilty with the concern of public safety. While suspects have the opportunity to remain out of jail pending trial, they also have a strong incentive to show up for trial or risk loss of property. Moreover, the commercial bondsmen have an extra incentive to help ensure a flight risk is apprehended and brought to trial. Donald Verrilli, Obama's solicitor general, said it well in 1982: "Bail acts as a reconciling mechanism to accommodate both the defendant's interest in pretrial liberty and society's interest in assuring the defendant's presence at trial."