We didn’t question a Baltimore district court judge when she said she couldn’t trust Heather Cook’s judgment if released from jail pending trial. After all, the Episcopal bishop is charged with being a repeat drunk driver who recklessly took the life of a bicyclist on Roland Avenue last month, then left the scene. But we do wonder why Judge Nicole Pastore Klein allowed Bishop Cook bail at all, even one as high as $2.5 million. Does Ms. Cook suddenly become trustworthy if she wins the lottery?
Judge Klein took a gamble on the public’s behalf and lost. Bishop Cook, whose attorney earlier in the week said she couldn’t afford release, posted bail today through Fred Frank Bail Bonds, according to court records.
The scenario underscores why a recommendation submitted last month to legislative leaders proposing that the state’s asset-based bail system be “completely eliminated” should be given swift and thorough consideration. Whether defendants are incarcerated before trial should be based on the likelihood they’ll return to court and won’t harm the public rather than on their ability to afford release.