It's hard to sustain outrage against a dead man. Maurice Clemmons is beyond the reach of public anger, so the anger has to go looking for someone else.
Targets of convenience: the two Pierce County Superior Court judges, John McCarthy and Thomas Felnagle, who allowed Clemmons to post bond and walk out of jail before killing four Lakewood police officers Sunday.
Anger doesn’t have a brain, though. McCarthy and Felnagle are the wrong targets. If we’re looking to pin blame, the best candidate at this point looks like the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
It is indeed true that McCarthy on July 2 set a bail of $190,000 for several felony charges against Clemmons, including second-degree child rape, third-degree assault and malicious mischief. By all accounts, though, $190,000 was a high bail, given the circumstances. Even so – and this is a crucial point – McCarthy still ordered Clemmons held without bail because Arkansas had issued a warrant to extradite him.
Leave aside the warrant for a moment. On the Washington counts, denying bail wasn’t an option. The state constitution decrees that defendants have the right to post bail for all but capital charges. Keep in mind, Clemmons was not a cop-killer on July 2. He was just one of an unending stream of defendants – many charged with serious crimes, including child rape – flowing relentlessly through the court system. Neither McCarthy nor anyone else had a crystal ball to warn them that this particular defendant would explode five months later and gun down four officers.
Even without the constitutional problems, the river of bad guys and suspects can’t simply be impounded in the slammer; there’s no jail big enough, and the taxpayers would never spring for it.
To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.