Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Philadelphia judge rejected every request for emergency inmate release

As Philadelphia’s courts continue to hold emergency hearings to reduce the jail population amid a coronavirus outbreak behind bars, one Common Pleas Court Judge Anne Marie Coyle has rejected every request for inmate release — and has even increased the bail for four, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
That record over two days prompted the Defender Association to inform the courts Tuesday evening that it intended to withdraw all cases before Coyle, saying it no longer believed it was in its clients’ best interest to argue their cases in front of her.
In an email sent to the leadership of the First Judicial District and obtained by The Inquirer, Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey wrote that as Coyle increased some detainees’ bail during hearings ostensibly designed to expedite their possible release, the judge told attorneys in her virtual courtroom “that they should be careful what [they] wish for."
“We are compelled reach the unfortunate conclusion that Judge Coyle does not share the understanding reached by all of the stakeholders involved in this extraordinary circumstance," Bradford-Grey wrote.
This is the latest sign of discord among the city’s judiciary, defense lawyers, and the District Attorney’s Office, who have publicly bickered for weeks about how to best to respond to a virus that is spreading behind bars five times faster than the rest of the city.
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The decision also created some uncertainty in a process that, through Tuesday, had led to roughly 380 inmates securing an early release during five days of emergency hearings that began last week.
The judges have agreed to review the cases of scores of potentially releasable inmates from lists compiled by the District Attorney’s Office and the Defender Association in an effort to reduce the population of the county’s jails, which public health advocates have been warning for weeks could turn into a breeding ground for transmission of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, city officials announced the first inmate death related to the coronavirus in the jails and said 54 more were infected with the disease.
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