Robert Bianchi, appeared on MY9 Chasing New Jersey to discuss the Brandon Tevlin Case. Robert Bianchi gives his insight on the murder and the decision to reduce the bail of the suspected murderer.
By Robert A. Bianchi, Esq.: This is such a sad case. An innocent young man murdered for no reason. This case is pending presentment to the Essex County Grand Jury and is likely to take years to resolve. In the meantime, one of the defendants was successfully able to get his bail reduced in court and has since been released from custody. The issue of bail in New Jersey has been one that has been debated vigorously for some time now. People are often confused by this process, and an understanding of it may shed light on why someone charged with such a heinous crime is walking on the streets.
Firstly, in New Jersey bail is a constitutional right that must be afforded to every person charged with a criminal offense. It is grounded in the idea that our system of justice presumes all defendants to be innocent of crimes charged, unless and until a jury finds that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This “presumption of innocence” is a precious right that ensures that governments do not wrongly take a person’s liberty without due process of law. Bail laws in New Jersey are meant to only ensure a defendant comes to court to answer the charges lodged against them. This is the singular purpose of bail. Since those with significant offenses have a greater “risk of flight” then bails are higher for those higher-level offenses.
Typically, the public is not too concerned with bail, until a high-profile case occurs and the defendant is released and there is a public outcry about a “sense” that the person charged should not be “roaming the streets.” But the courts are dealing with the law and bail guidelines that apply to all cases, not just ones that the public becomes engaged in. There are certainly ways to change the bail laws, but that has to occur within the context of the legislature and through constitutional amendments passed by the voters. Until that time, the courts and attorneys will work under the laws that are on the books.
In this case, however, there was some questioning as to why the assistant prosecutor handling the case had consented to this bail reduction and did not argue to keep the bail at the amount previously set and that the defendant could not presumably make. It was certainly permissible under the current law to object to a reduction of the bail. Ultimately all bail decisions in New Jersey are within the province of a Judge. But, judges listen to arguments of the criminal defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney prior to rendering a decision. Since there was no argument (in fact there was consent by the assistant prosecutor) to the defense attorney’s motion to reduce the bail, the court reduced it.
I served as an assistant prosecutor for 7 years, a criminal defense lawyer for 12 years, the lead County Prosecutor for over 5 years and I am now back handling criminal defense cases. All of that experience has given me a tremendous insight into how prosecutors think, act, and handle cases. In all of that experience, I know that it is impossible to determine why a matter is handled in a particular way, unless and until I have all of the data. There could be many reasons why the assistant prosecutor did not object to the bail reduction. But, given the seriousness of the case, the flight risk, and the impotence of this prosecution, I am unable to determine why there was not a vigorous fight to maintain the bail to ensure the defendant stayed in jail pending trial.
But, in the end, it is about proving a case. It is hoped that this victim, and his family (who I happen to know very well), will receive justice in this matter. Our prayers and sympathies are extended to the entire Tevlin family, friends, and Seton Hall Prep community.