TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice, who serves as chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, issued the following statement today on the New Jersey Supreme Court case, State v. Habeeb Robinson. The case involves a dispute over the evidence that prosecutors must disclose when seeking to detain a defendant before trial without bail. Justices heard arguments in the case last week:
“Members of the Legislative Black Caucus supported the intent of bail reform but did not support the bill in the form it passed because we knew that the legislation, as written, was problematic for a number of reasons. The removal of the guaranteed constitutional right to bail without having speedy trial rules defined in the constitution was a major concern. Now we have the courts trying to determine, depending on how grave the charge is, whether a person is going to be detained and, in this case, providing only a report detailing the evidence against the defendant.
“The prosecution should not be able to pick and choose which evidence it presents, or to withhold evidence from the defendant or the court, when seeking to keep someone behind bars with no opportunity for release before trial. This ‘half-loaf’ approach is unacceptable.
“This is a vitally important case concerning due process and I hope the court does the right thing and rules in favor of all evidence being made available to a defendant if, in fact, the prosecutor is requesting that someone be detained without bail.
“Clearly, there are mixed reviews on how bail reform is working, but this issue goes to the fundamental rights of the accused. Defendants, their attorneys and judges deserve to have full disclosure of the evidence available in circumstances where prosecutors are recommending holding someone without bail, who has been arrested and charged, but not found guilty of a crime. This will ensure that the judge can make a decision based on all of the evidence available at the time, but also the defendants have an understanding of the evidence against them. In the interest of upholding the integrity of the justice system, it is critical that full discovery be required.”