19th JDC Judges settle suit, changing how people are jailed before trial

19th JDC Judges settle suit, changing how people are jailed before trial
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 6:13 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2022 at 6:41 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Judges in the 19th Judicial District settled a class-action lawsuit against them that claimed the judges left “innocent people confided in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison simply because they are too poor to pay for their freedom.”

The suit referred to the judges assigning bail amounts too expensive for indigent defendants to afford, leaving them locked up in jail for “weeks, months, or even years,” until their trial.

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In the settlement, the judges agreed to take into account the defendant’s financial situation before assigning bail.

“The goal is to both make sure that a person’s poverty is taken into account by judges when they set bail,” said David Utter, an attorney for one of the four plaintiffs who sued the 19th JDC.

The suit was filed by four people who are in jail, unable to afford bail, Joshua Ryan, Blaze Franklin, Amisar Nourani, and Herbert Scully.

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Utter said it would streamline the process of assigning bail, allowing low-level, non-violent residents to walk free on bond until their trial.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said the settlement ensures people are not staying locked up because they are poor, but he said it puts more pressure on the judges to not let a potentially violent offender out on the streets.

“I think we’ll see in the long run who remains in jail and who does not,” Moore said. “Again, we do not want those who do not pose a threat to the public to remain in jail. We want those who pose a threat to the public to remain in jail for public safety.”

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