Zina Makar, a 2014 OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow, is on the front lines of reforming Baltimore’s broken bail system. In Maryland, the legal standard for a “speedy trial” is 180 days, but many individuals are held for months or even years before going to court. Makar works as attorney at the Office of the Public Defender to challenge the wrongful bail determinations that lead to this epidemic of unlawful, indefinite detention.
In a blog post for the American Criminal Law Review, Makar writes compellingly of the need for bail reform and pretrial detention restrictions in order to protect the civil liberties of the accused. Using case stories, she unpacks the contradiction of denying a “dangerous” defendant bail only to release him on probation after he pleads guilty, and demonstrates how difficult it can be to get a bail review even when the State itself has evidence that would exonerate the accused. Without measures to correct Baltimore’s unjust pretrial justice system by safeguarding the rights of defendants, Makar argues, “the right to the presumption of innocence, speedy trial, and due process become toothless.”