Jabari Kemp is accused of smoking marijuana, running a red light on Blue Heron Boulevard and killing five young people. A judge set his bail at $150,000, and some family members of the victims believe that’s too low.
John Goodman is accused of driving drunk and killing one person. A judge set his bail at $4 million, and his attorneys believe that’s too high.
In fact, both judges got it mostly right. Consider the 21-year-old Kemp’s case first.
Prosecutors cannot seek bail that a defendant realistically cannot pay. Mr. Kemp does not have great wealth. He faces 10 counts and 75 years in prison from the April 13 crash in Riviera Beach. If prosecutors had determined that Mr. Kemp was a flight risk, they might have sought and obtained a higher bail.
But a spokesman said the state attorney’s office communicated with Mr. Kemp’s attorney during the investigation, after which the attorney arranged for his client to surrender. Mr. Kemp remains in jail, but the spokesman said Friday there was talk that bond was being arranged. If so, Mr. Kemp would go on house arrest.
For perspective, consider the 1996 crash in Boca Raton that killed five teenagers. Driver Nicholas Copertino faced 16 charges for letting seven teens ride in the back seat of his compact car without seat belts, then driving 90 mph on West Palmetto Park Road. Neither drugs nor alcohol was involved. He also faced 75 years in prison. The judge set his bail at $5,000, and told Mr. Copertino he couldn’t drive. He was sentenced to 15 years, and is due for release in 2023.
John Goodman may be a defendant, like Mr. Kemp, but unlike Mr. Kemp he has been convicted of the crime. The judge ordered a new trial because of a juror’s misconduct. After his arrest, Mr. Goodman’s bail had been set at $100,000, despite his great wealth. After the conviction, Mr. Goodman’s bail was raised to $7 million while he appealed, and he was ordered to pay for two sheriff’s deputies to monitor him on house arrest.
Mr. Goodman knows what a second trial might bring, and he has the means to flee. Further, Mr. Goodman was convicted not just of DUI manslaughter but of failing to aid Scott Wilson. And Mr. Goodman’s bail is $3 million less than it had been. Mr. Goodman wanted it reduced further, but last week the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled against him.
Judges must weigh many factors in setting bail for high-profile defendants, and there is no formula. In the cases of Jabari Kemp and John Goodman, however, judicial discretion was exercised wisely.
for The Post Editorial Board