More than two years after Maurice Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood police officers, the state has yet to alter a practice that helped Clemmons bail out of jail before the attacks.
Clemmons had won release on a pending child-rape charge by paying $8,000 – about 4 percent – of his $190,000 bail. Six days later, he walked into a Parkland coffee shop and killed Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens.
Prosecutors and judges expressed surprise that Clemmons had been able to bail out so easily. They had widely believed bailing bonds required a minimum 10 percent payment.
Members of a work group formed in 2010 after the Lakewood police were killed couldn’t agree on a minimum upfront payment, so it sent a list of other recommendations to the Legislature.
Items on that list became House Bill 2668, which prosecutors criticized for not going far enough. The bill died Friday when the window for debate and passage closed as the Senate was consumed with a Republican budget maneuver.
Rep. Christopher Hurst, chairman of the House public safety committee and a member of the work group, said negotiators will take up the issue again this summer.
“We go back to the drawing board and see what we can get agreement on,” Hurst said.
This was the second year that interested parties failed to reach a consensus on setting a mandatory minimum that defendants must pay a bail bondsman. Prosecutors’ attempt last year to amend legislation to include a floor for bailing bonds effectively killed the task force’s other recommendations to lawmakers, Hurst said.
“They have had a serious problem with playing well with others in the sandbox, so to speak,” he said. “ I think that that cost the rest of the bail reforms an entire year.”
Hurst added that prosecutors were not responsible for the failure of this year’s measure.
Tom McBride with the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys says his group’s position has been consistent throughout: The primary duty of the task force is to set a minimum upfront payment. He said that victims and witnesses deserve a solid answer as to what it takes for a defendant to bail out.
“Right now we say, ‘We don’t really know what that means,’” McBride said.
For bail bondsman Denny Behrend, who represented the Washington State Bail Agents Association on the task force, the answer to that problem is simple.
“It’s not rocket science here; you have to set a minimum that a bonding company can charge,” Behrend said.
Alexis Krell: 360-943-7123 firstname.lastname@example.org