San Jose

Why Are Some Murder Suspects Being Released With Little or No Bail?

San Jose's police chief said the release of suspects by judges in two different homicide cases is a serious community threat.

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San Jose's top cop says suspects charged with murder or accessory to murder who are being released by judges with little or no bail are a serious community threat.

The release of suspects by judges in two different homicide cases has angered top police brass.

In one of the cases, Eefrain Anzures is charged with murder for what police describe as a hit-and-run road rage incident on Oct. 31. Court documents show Judge Phillip Pennypacker put Anzures on house arrest, with a few restrictions: like stay away from the victim's family, submit to searches, and attend drug and alcohol counseling.

His alleged accomplice, Alfred Castillo, was also released on what's call SORP, or the Supervised Own Recognizance Program.

"I'm shocked," San Jose police Chief Anthony Mata said.

Mata is a former homicide detective who has never seen murder suspects released on SORP while their case goes through the legal process.

"This is the ultimate crime. This is murder," Mata said. "Someone took it upon themselves to kill another individual."

In another case, Margarita Santillan is facing murder charges for a killing on Aug. 11 on Littlewood Lane. She was also placed under SORP by Judge Shelyna Brown, who added a $100,000 bond.

"This is difficult," Mata said. "We can only do so much. But we need help."

NBC Bay Area reached out to legal analyst Steven Clark to review the files.

"It appears there is a colorable self-defense component in both cases," Clark said. "These people did not have serious records, and they have no history of failure to appear."

Clark said a ruling by the California Supreme Court last year in what is called the Humphrey case changed the bail process, and he expects to see more murder suspects released on SORP in the future.

"It's no longer a rubber stamp to keep someone in jail, even though the charges here are extremely serious," Clark said.

In a statement the Superior Court said it cannot comment on specific cases but added a judge reviews every case to see if it's safe to release a suspect with proper supervision.

Here's the full Superior Court statement regarding pretrial release:

“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.”

And even though it can be somewhat demoralizing, the San Jose police chief said he will tell his officers to keep investigating the most serous crime of all and keep arresting accused killers, even if the suspects might end up back on the streets a few days later.

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