Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Suppression, and COVID-19, made this defendant a candidate for pretrial release

Many of us are litigating pretrial release issues. United States v. Norbert, No. 3:19-cr-00050-CWR-FKB (S.D. Miss. Apr. 8, 2020) is worth a read. In that case, a magistrate judge in the Southern District of Mississippi originally found the defendant in a felon-in-possession case to be a flight risk and ordered him to be detained pretrial. Then the district court granted his motion to suppress the gun and his statements admitting ownership. That grant is on interlocutory appeal. Nonetheless, the suppression, the court said, weakened the government's case and tipped the scales in favor of release.

The court also noted that the "reality of COVID-19’s inevitable introduction to the Madison County Detention Center–where Norbert is currently held–further influences the Court’s decision to allow Norbert’s release on bond." The court noted the rapidity with which COVID-19 spreads, and recognized that incarcerated people are "uniquely susceptible to COVID-19" because social distancing inside correctional facilities is impossible. The court also found that any flight risk would be mitigated by travel and commercial restrictions already in place due to COVID-19. COVID-19 "spreads like wildfire through our nation's prisons and jails," the court said, and "there is no need to subject [the defendant] to that risk over the coming weeks."

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