November 2, 2013

Farmington attorney says state jail system violates defendant’s constitutional rights

Robert Parker, accused of sexually assaulting a child, is held 90 miles from attorney with convicted felons in prison while he awaits trial

By Kaitlin Schroeder
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Robbins said both county prosecutors and defense attorneys would like to see the jail returned to its former status, but said granting Parker a personal recognizance bail, which is usually reserved for minor offenses, would not be a good solution.

“I don’t think that will solve any of the problems here,” he said. “As the prosecution we would prefer the bail in remain in place and he be held in a local jail.”

Hanstein said he recognizes the judge does not have the power to overturn the state law with this motion, but within the law she can say the constitution requires Parker to be returned to his home.

“What she does have the authority to say is ‘I’m not telling the Department of Corrections what you have to do. I’m just telling the lawyers that if this guy is not housed in Farmington then I’m going to change bail and release him on personal recognizance,’” he said.

Sheriff Scott Nichols said the debate shows the problems that are created consolidated jail system, which he criticized for unnecessarily separates inmates from their families and attorneys when they could be held in a local jail.

Nichols has said his department has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on transport cost since the start of the consolidated system. Franklin County deputies traveled 1,056 miles this week transporting inmates between Farmington and out of county jails and Windham prison.

“It’s one of the many issues with this whole situation,” he said. “I’m surprised he’s the only one who’s complained so far,” he said.

Franklin County Jail Administrator Doug Blauvelt said the inmates go wherever there is bed space. He said there are 12 inmates being held in Windham prison as of Friday, but the number frequently changes as cases are dispensed with and arrests are made.

Jim Burke, professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law, said he is familiar with the ongoing dispute between Franklin County and the unified jail system, and though he has not reviewed Hanstein’s specific motion, he said there is merit to the argument that being held out of county violates Franklin County inmates constitutional rights.

Burke said the judge has a difficult case to decide whether to agree Parker needs released because of his right of reasonable access to an attorney or to decide the public safety is compromised if a high risk offender is released on a no-cash bail. However, he said whatever decision the judge makes will likely not significantly affect the ongoing debate surrounding the jails.

“I don’t think realistically this will be a case where the judge orders a solution to the huge problem of jails and funding and who’s going to hold who where at who’s expense,” he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

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