Judges should be allowed to deny bail to suspects who are public threat

Gov. Gregoire and others are pushing for a change to the state constitution in the wake of the murder of four police officers.

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The murder of four police officers near Tacoma shocked the entire state. It was a tragedy that could have been -- should have been -- prevented.

Just six days before the shooting, suspect Maurice Clemmons, who had a criminal history in Washington and Arkansas, posted bail on the charge of raping a child. Under Washington's "three-strikes" law he would go to prison for life if convicted.

Clemmons was a man with nothing to lose. Why then was he granted bail?

Under the state constitution, bail can be denied only in aggravated murder cases.

That's got to change.

And if Gov. Chris Gregoire, several law enforcement groups, prosecutors and judges get their way it will.

Legislation will likely be introduced soon that will amend the constitution so judges have leeway to deny bail in some instances. While the specific details haven't been worked out, this is a direction the state must go.

"We owe that to these fallen officers and their families," Gregoire said.

We elect judges to use sound judgment. When a suspect is a threat to public safety, as those who have nothing to lose combined with a history of violence clearly are, a judge should have the power to keep them behind bars until it is determined if they are guilty of the crime.

This proposal will be looked at from every angle. It must first be approved by the House and Senate and then go before the voters.

Given that, we are confident the amendment to the constitution that gains approval will be written narrowly so that liberties are not swept away simply because of the emotion in this case.

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