Witmer-Rich Op-Ed Criticizes Ohio’s Failed Bail Reform Efforts

Professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich published an op-ed today on cleveland.com, titled “Kenta Settles’ lengthy jail stay shows how Ohio bail reform has failed.”  He discusses the recent case of Kenta Settles, who was attacked by Garfield Heights police officers and then held for five months in pretrial detention before being released when the police body camera footage was finally disclosed.

Witmer-Rich recounts how after Settles was arrested, the magistrate set a $250,000 bond, an amount clearly chosen to ensure Settles would be detained.  Witmer-Rich criticizes the practice of detaining defendants by using money bonds without the due process that would be required for an actual detention order.

Ohio law does allow judges to order defendants detained pretrial, but only after following a detailed set of procedures to protect individuals from unnecessary detention.  Witmer-Rich explains that Ohio judges routinely bypass those procedures and instead set high money bail.  This is exactly what happened to Settles.  Had the judge followed the procedures required for an actual detention order, there is a good chance that the body camera footage would have been disclosed immediately, rather than after five months of unncessary detention.

Witmer-Rich also criticizes a recent decision by the Ohio Rules Commission (of which he is a member) to permit Ohio judges to continue this practice of detaining defendants with money bail.  He concludes, “Ohio judges must stop using money bail to detain defendants without following the procedures required to justify pretrial detention. The Ohio Legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court must end this practice.”

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