CT woman’s death is a result of the failure of the bail system

How Governor Ned Lamont decides to appoint the next Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court remains shrouded in mystery. The governor interviews hopefuls privately. His deliberations will be conducted with a small circle of formal and informal advisors. The list from which a governor can select a candidate for one of the state’s most important positions of public trust remains hidden from the public.

The governor was stung last year when his nominee for an Associate Justice position on the state Supreme Court withdrew after appearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. That hearing centered on federal prosecutor Sandra Slack Glover, who included her name in an effusive letter from former Supreme Court clerks endorsing Amy Comey Barrett’s 2017 nomination to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Four years ago this month, at the height of the nation’s outrage over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Lamont vowed to use his authority to create a more diverse judiciary. In March, Lamont nominated nearly two dozen new jurors. He stated: “This group of nominees that I am sending to the Legislature today continues this administration’s efforts to ensure that the people who serve as judges in our state reflect the diversity, experience and understanding of the people who live here .”

The facts do not match Lamont’s lofty claims. Since George Floyd’s death until today, the governor has filed four nominations to the state Supreme Court. All four are white. They are no one’s definition of racial diversity. Now is the time for the Greenwich aristocrat to make good on his solemn promise.

This will likely be Lamont’s only chance to appoint a chief justice, even if, as many expect, he seeks and wins a third four-year term. The secret process blocks the flow of information to the public – and to Lamont. He is believed to be considering three members of the Supreme Court and two judges on the Court of Appeal. Among these five are Supreme Court Justice Raheem Mullins and Justice Dawne Westbrook, black. The others reportedly involved are white.

The governor may want to delve into some tough issues with the judges on his list. His top adviser on judicial appointments, former Chief Justice Chase Rogers, can help. Lamont trusts Rogers. She went to college with Lamont’s wife. The Governor is the godfather of Rogers’ son, and the Governor’s namesake. In a move that did not receive enough attention at the time, Lamont appointed his godson’s father to a seat on the Superior Court bench early in his first term.

In 2015, much to Rogers’ ire, the Supreme Court established a new legal standard to strike down the state’s death penalty law. The 4-3 majority opinion revealed its curious reasoning, ruling: “this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any penalogical purpose.”

A tragedy in Griswold last Sunday afternoon provided a grim reminder of the role court leadership plays in justice and public safety in setting bail and overseeing the probation system. Charlotte DeGrado, who was 96 years old, died after the vehicle she was riding in was struck at high speed by a car allegedly driven by Franklin Post. A witness to the crash captured video of what police say is Post and two passengers exiting the car and fleeing the scene on foot. They were arrested later in the day.

Police say Post tampered with his court-ordered ankle monitor. When he was arrested, he had nearly $5,000 cash on him, as well as pills believed to be fentanyl. Post, the state judiciary website shows, was arrested in January for charges including reckless driving and participating in police pursuits. Post was arrested three times in April, including on charges of first-degree threatening with intent to terrorize. That came eight days after an arrest for risk of injury to a child. In May, Post was arrested for violating his probation, which dated from a 2022 conviction for possession of narcotics with intent to sell.

When Charlotte DeGrado died last Sunday, Post was facing at least 10 charges from multiple arrests since January 17. Sunday’s catastrophe brought another fourteen.

Post should have been in jail last Sunday and not driving a car while, he allegedly told police, he was sleeping. Time and time again, Post was released on bail before June 9 because our bail system is failing to tackle repeat offenders. The judiciary has played a leading role in making it difficult to stop criminals from causing more misery to victims.

The price Charlotte DeGrado is paying is the result of the failure of the bail system. To put it in terms that any candidate for chief justice would understand, her dark fate is out of step with today’s standards of decency. What are they going to do about it? The governor should insist on knowing the answer.

Kevin Rennie can be reached at [email protected].