Politics & Government

Middle ground elusive on new bail-hold laws

Senators are hoping to meet halfway. House members aren't budging.

It’s the dispute over how to limit the Washington constitution’s right to bail that has caused the divisions between legislators on opposite sides of the Capitol Rotunda. The latest proposal to let judges detain more criminal suspects came Thursday from Sens. Mike Carrell and Adam Kline.

Carrell, a conservative Lakewood Republican, and Kline, a liberal Seattle Democrat, have worked together closely on a legislative response to the November slayings of four Lakewood police officers. Their latest move is an attempt to find middle ground between a deal they worked out earlier that passed the Senate and another, tougher measure that passed the House.

Another bipartisan pair, Seattle Police officer Rep. Mike Hope and former police detective Rep. Christopher Hurst, stood firm, criticizing the new amendment and their exclusion from working on it. Still, Hurst predicted the impasse would break eventually.

“We’re not going to leave this session without this bill. That is not going to happen,” said Hurst, D-Enumclaw.

By the state constitution, judges must grant bail for all suspects except those facing the death penalty. Nearly all legislators agree that should change after revelations that Maurice Clemmons was released on bail days before killing four Lakewood police officers despite facing a potential third strike on a charge of child rape. To change it, a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate and a simple majority of voters must agree.

Senators at first targeted only multiple-strike offenders like Clemmons, but now would add those accused of crimes that involve intentionally causing great bodily harm. The Judiciary Committee that Kline chairs is due to consider the proposal this morning.

Senators listed the offenses for which suspects could be detained and said they would have allowed judges to lock up at least 617 people last year, up from just nine.

But they wouldn’t include all crimes in the most serious class of felonies – as a version that passed the House would do – and would require bail for crimes like vehicular homicide, arson, robbery and burglary.

“We need to distinguish between those things that are harmful to individuals, and those things that are bad, very bad things, but not harmful to individuals,” Carrell said.

House members and their police supporters said the Senate’s approach does not go far enough. The House version would have allowed detention in 1,540 cases last year, legislative researchers say.

Hope, R-Lake Stevens, complained the Senate wouldn’t cover someone who intended, but failed, to kill.

Hurst said Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has proposed even more sweeping language, may weigh in on the House’s side next week.

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826