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Sat., June 30, 2012

Sheriff misses the mark

Given the two deputies’ frightening and sobering wounds, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is understandably shaken. But it is misguided to blame the federal magistrate for Wallace’s rampage.

Pre-trial release is governed by the Constitution and federal statutes in a decision involving many people and multiple reviews. Lawyers appear for the government and the accused. The U.S. Probation Office submits a biography of the accused including prior offenses. There is no magic “violence predictor,” but people with a violent past are closely scrutinized.

Only then does the magistrate rule. If the judge releases, the U.S. Department of Justice can immediately appeal to the district court judge. In this instance, Wallace’s release was not challenged. That decision, too, is governed by policy and oversight.

We can second-guess the magistrate or prosecution, but bail is not a knee-jerk process. Every person in the system takes it seriously. When a decision goes wrong, as complex human decisions can, it is unworthy of us to lay blame on the last signature.

Our sheriff questioned “why this individual was allowed to be on the streets of Spokane.” The answers start with better understanding of the process, law, and human factors involved.

Jeffry Finer


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