Prosecutor, public defender start bail fund for poor people

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By: Associated Press
February 21, 2020

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of Florida’s biggest court jurisdictions plans to start a fund to help low-income people charged with nonviolent offenses pay for bail.

The chief prosecutor and the public defender for metro Orlando’s court jurisdiction joined with a prominent law firm on Thursday to create the Community Bail Fund.

The Morgan & Morgan law firm has agreed to match the first $250,000 raised for the fund, according to a statement from the law firm.

“The cash bail system has created a structure where people of means are treated fairly and poor are unduly penalized for their circumstances.,” said State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Public Defender Bob Wesley said his office will determine the most suitable candidates for the money.

“Many choose to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit in order to receive a reduced sentence to regain their freedom quickly,” Wesley said. “These convictions follow an individual for the rest of their lives and impacts their ability to retain employment and housing.”

In 2018, Aramis said her office would no longer request monetary bail bonds for defendants accused of low-level crimes. Her office also set up a unit to look at possible wrongful convictions. Ayala previously got into a legal fight with then-Gov. Rick Scott for her blanket refusal to seek the death penalty, and he took cases away from her. She has decided not to seek re-election.

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