SACRAMENTO — A parolee’s arrest in a killing after he’d been released without bail helped torpedo the California Legislature’s latest attempt to reform the cash bail system for this year, the bill’s author said Thursday.
Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg unsuccessfully tried several variations of a new measure after voters in November defeated a law what would have ended cash bail in favor of risk assessments.
His initial bill cleared the Senate but ran into opposition in the more conservative Assembly ahead of Friday’s legislative deadline, although Democrats control the needed two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
The California District Attorneys Association gained new traction in opposing the measure this week when a parolee was arrested and charged in the slaying of a Sacramento woman found dead along with her two slain dogs inside her burning home.
Troy Davis, 51, was released without bail on suspicion of auto theft in June and did not appear for his arraignment.
“The gruesome murder of the Sacramento woman had several of my colleagues reaching out with concerns,” Hertzberg said in a statement to The Associated Press. He said his proposal “actually could have prevented that parolee from being released in the first place” but that he ran out of time to explain that to reluctant lawmakers before Friday’s adjournment deadline.
“We made a lot of progress this year and we’ll be back next year in stronger shape,” Hertzberg said.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, the district attorneys association’s president, said lawmakers supporting changes to the bail system are “expressing sympathy toward prisoners instead of prioritizing public safety.”
Hertzberg said he will keep working for “a fair, safe and equitable bail system, free of industry greed.”
The current bail system, he said, “keeps Californians locked up who pose no threat to the public and who have been convicted of no crime, simply because they cannot pay what the bail industry demands.”
Hertzberg recently heavily amended his original bill after it ran into opposition in the Assembly.
It would now set a statewide bail schedule that takes into account suspects’ finances and returns the money if charges are dropped.
It follows the California Supreme Court ruling in April that judges must consider suspects’ ability to pay when they set bail, and Hertzberg said his bill implements the high court’s ruling.
It also follows a statewide judicial order last year that set bail to $0 for many crimes during the early months of the Coronavirus pandemic in a bid to reduce the vulnerable populations in county jails.
Hertzberg’s bill originally mimicked that $0 bail order when it cleared the Senate.
His amended bill requires the Judicial Council to set a statewide bail schedule by 2023, replacing schedules that vary across the state’s 58 counties.