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For immediate release: September 5, 2007
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig

Report on Essex County Bail Procedures

Retired Hudson County Assignment Judge Arthur N. D'Italia has presented his report of procedures in the setting and consolidation of bail in the Essex County case of Jose Lachira Carranza.

On Aug. 16 Judge D'Italia was asked by Chief Justice Rabner to conduct a review of bail procedures in a series of charges against this defendant and to report back on his findings. In the course of his review, Judge D'Italia inspected court files related to the defendant, reviewed audio and video tapes of court proceedings, and conducted interviews with judges, court staff, prosecutors and the defendant's attorney.

The report offers a detailed description of the common procedures and processes for setting bail and how bail was set for this defendant in three separate arrests. Judge D'Italia points out that the practice of accepting agreements between prosecutors and defense attorneys to lower bail without benefit of any formal record caused confusion in the Carranza case and suggests placing bail determinations presented to a judge by agreement of both parties on the record.

Judge Philip S. Carchman, acting administrative director of the courts, today issued a memo to all assignment judges and criminal presiding judges for distribution to all judges directing that a record be made of the agreement of the parties if bail is reduced. That record of agreement, according to Judge Carchman's memo, could be as formal as a statement in open court or as simple as both the prosecutor and the defense attorney initialing a court document that records the bail reduction.

Judge D'Italia's report concludes that Mr. Carranza was entitled to a reasonable bail that would ensure his appearance at trial on serious charges. Citing the New Jersey Supreme Court opinion in State v. Johnson, Judge D'Italia stresses the constitutional right to bail in New Jersey and concludes that public criticism regarding the fact that the defendant was released on bail is "a profoundly flawed understanding of the right to bail."

Chief Justice Rabner thanked Judge D'Italia for his service. "Judge D'Italia has swiftly and thoroughly completed a review of this case, and we appreciate his hard work and his candor," he said.

Chief Justice Rabner will refer Judge D'Italia's report to the Supreme Court's Criminal Practice Committee, the Conference of Criminal Presiding Judges and the Conference of Municipal Court Presiding Judges for their review and further recommendations.

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