State Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster is working on legislation to revise Alabama’s bail process.
During a Tuesday news conference, Ward said the recent high-profile capital murder case of Aniah Blanchard that took place in Lee County was a wake-up call.
“In certain situations, people shouldn’t be on the streets,” Ward said.
The man accused in the case, Ibraheem Yazeed, was out on bond in Montgomery for kidnapping and attempted murder when Blanchard was killed. Yazeed’s bail was set at the maximum amount listed in the state’s bond schedule, a guideline for judges outlined in the Rules of Criminal Procedure.
“Had this person not been on the streets, that girl would still be alive today,” Ward said
The Eighth Amendment prohibits judges from setting especially high bail amounts, which many defense attorneys say is as good as having no bail at all.
Ward says his bill isn't broad enough to violate those protections.
“Other states have done this and it’s been upheld,” he explained.
According to reports, defense attorneys disagree, arguing the bill poses a threat to defendants’ constitutional rights.
“This isn’t the first time legislators have tried to do an end-run around constitutional protections,” defense attorney Andrew Skier said. “I have faith the courts -- the appellate courts, the trial courts, maybe even the Supreme Court -- will weigh in on this. We’ve been successful in the past in protecting individual rights against attacks like this.”
Skier says denying bond for a person who’s accused of a violent crime yet still presumed innocent is a gross overreaction.
“No one has ever been elected in Alabama by saying they are going to be easy on crime or easy on people accused of committing crimes,” he said. “The courts are there to protect the rights of the people accused of committing crimes. In the past the courts have protected those rights and I expect that will continue.”
Ward says he’s finalizing the legislation and expects to have it pre-filed before the session starts in February.
Ward is currently running for the Republican nomination to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court.