San Jose police, mayor angered after homicide suspects released due to bail reform law

Dustin Dorsey Image
Thursday, December 2, 2021
SJ officials angered after homicide suspects released to streets
City leaders are outraged and concerned that murder suspects are being released back on to the streets in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- City leaders are outraged and concerned that murder suspects are being released back on to the streets in San Jose.

Their releases come as part of a rule put in place in 2020 to help with bail reform.

But police say the system is not working and their work to arrest violent criminals is all for naught.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo worries the community is at risk after the release of these murder suspects in at least two high profile cases.

RELATED: 55% of alleged criminals released in San Francisco reoffended before trial, report says

"This is just dangerous for everyone and we need the judicial system to be able to understand and appreciate the public safety peril that is created by these decisions," Liccardo said.

This comes as a result of a 2020 California Supreme Court ruling allowing for individual analysis of everyone's right to pre-trial release with little to no bail.

Efrain Anzures and Alfred Castillo were arrested following what police call a Halloween road-rage incident and charged with murder and accessory to murder. They were released without bail with special conditions under supervised own recognizance release or SORP.

Oscar Soto was arrested and suspected of the city's second homicide of 2021 and SORP once again allowed him to be released. Police say he has since fled the country.

RELATED: San Jose retailers hiring more private security as stores grapple with organized robberies

"The judges are probably following, to the best of their belief, what they think the law compels them to do," SJPD asst. chief Paul Joseph said. "But if that's what the law compels them to do, then the law needs to be changed. There's a problem with the law."

"I appreciate the purpose of bail reform, but the pendulum has swung too far," Liccardo said. "We need a judicial system that is balanced that serves the entire community."

SORP was enacted last year to try to preserve that balance.

Legal analyst Steven Clark says two criteria are considered before pre-trial release: is a suspect consider safe to be in the community and will that person show up for future court dates?

RELATED: San Jose approves license plate readers in effort to deter retail thefts

If the judge feels both are true, Clark says the suspect legally must be granted supervised release.

"Until you've been convicted of something, you should be given the opportunity to be considered for some sort of pre-trial release," Clark said. "Otherwise, you have to fight your case in custody while everyone else who has money has to fight their case after posting bail."

Even so, as the community watches crime rates rise across the Bay Area, San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata says residents and victim's families deserve better.

"This isn't reform," Chief Mata said. "We need to work together to come up with better solutions to keep our community safe and keep those individuals accountable."