Post, 11 Mar 2009 (Castaneda ).
According to police, Sean Sykes and an accomplice stabbed a man in Prince George's County last month and then threatened to kill a witness who saw them dragging the victim out of an apartment building. Sykes was arrested, charged with second-degree murder and held on $1.5 million bond.
But when Sykes, 18, appeared in court last week, a judge took an unusual step: He released Sykes to the custody of his mother.
Yesterday, District Court Judge Hassan A. El-Amin defended his decision and denounced the Maryland judicial system's method of determining whether and under what conditions defendants are released before trial. El-Amin said the vast majority of defendants, even those charged with murder and other serious crimes, appear at bond hearings without an attorney, as Sykes did.
"Our whole bond system is problematical," El-Amin said in an interview. "It's barely constitutional."
Sykes is charged in the slaying of Rene R. Belasco, 24.
Shortly before midnight Feb. 24, police went to an apartment building in the 1100 block of Kennebec Street in Oxon Hill. Police found Belasco on the sidewalk, suffering from stab wounds. He died at a hospital.
A witness identified Sykes as one of the two men who dragged Belasco from the apartment building, according to a charging document. The men threatened the life of the witness if the witness talked to police, according to the document.
The state public defender's office takes the position that staffing all bond hearings and earlier appearances, before court commissioners, would be a poor use of resources. The state's highest court is expected to rule this year on whether the right to counsel extends to those proceedings.
(Posted 11 Mar 2009)