Yesterday I saw a news item out of Maine that enraged me to the point that I threw something at the television. The something was a balled-up napkin, so I then had to deal with the frustration of not having broken anything in anger, which I accomplished by stomping my foot. Twice.
The news struck me as so anti-sane that I assumed I’d heard certain parts incorrectly. I searched the internets and found a corroborating article. Here’s the gist of it, in increasing order of infuriation:
1. On June 3rd, Richard Decca grabbed an eight-year old girl in a Wal-Mart parking lot and tried to find an unlocked car in which to molest her. He was stopped by two Good Samaritans who heard the “Code Adam” (similar to an Amber Alert), and then arrested by the police.
2. The two Good Samaritans did not beat Mr. Decca into a bloody pulp.
3. Mr. Decca was charged with felony kidnapping and bail was set at $500,000.
I assume that Decca’s not the sort of guy who could post a half-million dollars to get himself out of jail, but I was nonetheless angered that the judge didn’t simply deny bail. Why? Read on.
4. The attempted abduction occurred the day after Mr. Decca posted $300 in bail. He had been arrested in April for “unlawful sexual contact” with a one-year-old.
Let’s recap: the man sat in jail for over a month after molesting a one-year-old baby—“allegedly”—then posted a measly $300 bail, and the very next day nearly succeeded in raping a little girl. And even after all that, he can still walk out of jail if he comes up with enough cash.
I cannot use italics enough in this post.
I’m aware that in our tradition of jurisprudence, one is presumed not guilty until proven otherwise. But I must admit that I’m tempted to jump the gun and assume that Decca is guilty on all charges. (Does that make me a bad person?)
I am offended that bail was even a consideration the second time around. What if Decca comes up with the half-million, or even posts a tenth of that for a bail bond? Would the court at least have the good sense to have the police keep him from making a beeline for the nearest Kinder-Care?
Worse, what if the Good Samaritans hadn’t caught him? Would anything have happened to the judge who set bail that low in the first place?
An economist named Steven Landsburg once wrote about some of his “modest proposals” for our legal, political and economic systems (though he was literal where Swift was satirical). One of his proposals was that judges should be held liable for certain criminal actions committed by parolees and probationers. I don’t have a copy of the book handy, so I can’t say whether his proposal would have applied to people out on bail, awaiting trial—but it doesn’t seem like a bad idea, does it? It would certainly make judges think more carefully about how low to set bail, or whether to deny it altogether, or how restrictive the conditions of release would be.
Perhaps with such a law in place, eight-year-old girls wouldn’t have to rely as much on blind luck or the grace of God to protect them from kidnappers, or worse.