San Jose police and Mayor Sam Liccardo have shared frustrations with bail reform advocates following the release of two homicide suspects on zero bail this week.
The two suspects, Eefrain Anzures and Alfred Castillo, were released on zero bail by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Philip Pennypacker.
Anzures is being charged with murder for what police are calling a "hit-and-run road rage incident." He was put on house arrest.
His alleged accomplice, Castillo, was released through the Supervised Own Recognizance Program.
"This is an absolute assault on the safety of San Jose residents," said Sean Pritchard, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association. "Releasing murder suspects on ankle monitors or on the honor system is dangerous."
Liccardo echoed that sentiment.
"I appreciate the purpose of bail reform, but releasing a homicide suspect without bail is outrageous," the mayor said in a statement. "The pendulum has swung too far, and it's our neighborhoods that endure the most crime that suffer as a result."
The push to end the practice of cash bail has been in the works for years in California. In March of this year, the movement reached some success, as the state Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to require defendants to remain behind bars simply because they cannot afford bail.
The ruling means that judges can only keep a suspect behind bars if there was "clear and convincing" evidence that indicates there would be no other way to protect the public or ensure the defendant would appear for court appearances.
Santa Clara County Superior Court officials said they could not comment on specific cases but noted that a judge reviews each case to determine whether it's safe to release a suspect without supervision.
"Every judge reviewing a case for release is required to give individualized consideration to the person appearing before them, and to consider whether non-monetary or other conditions of release are sufficient to protect both the alleged victim and the public, and to ensure the defendant's appearance in court. Supervised release with conditions, including but not limited to electronic monitoring, is a significant tool in that regard. A defendant charged with a serious or violent offense may not be released on other than scheduled bail until a hearing is held in open court," the court's full statement reads.
The San Jose Police Officers Association, however, feels different. They claimed that the no bail policies instead enable criminals.
"(This) is the reason why we launched www.ACLU-watch.com so that citizens can learn who is behind these absurd policies," Pritchard said.
NBC Bay Area reached out to the ACLU of Northern California and they released the following statement on Wednesday:
"Efforts by police associations in San Jose and nationwide to link California's voter-approved justice reforms and pre-trial justice measures to an alleged increase in crime are disingenuous and exploit crime victims and their families. California's money bail system has irreparably harmed Black and Brown communities by fueling poverty, recidivism, and racial disparities in the criminal legal system while failing to improve public safety. Additionally, the money bail system undermines the presumption of innocence, a bedrock principle of justice in our country. Many low-income people who are merely accused of crimes, but are legally innocent, have lost jobs, housing, and financial stability due to this unfair and ineffective system.
Proposition 47, which passed by the majority of voters in 2014, has saved the state of California over $100 million every year since it passed. These significant savings have been invested into programs that, unlike money bail, do improve public safety, such as drug and mental health treatment programs, programs for at-risk students in K-12 school, and victim services. Proposition 47 has narrowed racial disparities in the criminal legal system and reduced incarceration for low-level offenses. These same police associations tried and failed to repeal proposition 47 in 2020.
It is the height of hypocrisy for these police associations, whose own members are responsible for countless killings of civilians, to feign concern for individual tragedies and attempt to exploit them for their regressive political agendas. This kind of propaganda is filled with bold faced lies that are unsupported by data or common sense. California should continue to double down on its path of justice reform in order to forge a path that eliminates the abuse and malfeasance that has defined a racist mass incarceration regime that has targeted Black and Brown communities."
Bay City News contributed to report.