Shykill Brewer, who spent six weeks in Baltimore’s jail finally to be freed on $100,000 bail on a misdemeanor gun charge, is among dozens of suspects who have been detained for days with no chance at release, after being charged directly by prosecutors instead of by police, says the Baltimore Sun. Officials say the unusual strategy is key to taking down major criminal organizations, but they also acknowledge problems that have led to long delays.
In the 205 cases filed last year by the office of State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, 20 percent of defendants waited more than five days for an initial appearance in court. One man waited nearly two months. Nicholas Panteleakis, a defense attorney whose client waited almost a week for a bail review, said that the “way the whole system is dealing with the issue is troubling.” The issue is playing out as the state grapples with how to respect suspects’ rights before trial. The state’s top court has ruled that defendants are entitled to public defenders at all bail hearings, including those before commissioners in lower courts. The potentially costly proposition has officials reconsidering Maryland’s entire system of pretrial release.