Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, allegedly murdered Freddie Gray. Allen Bullock, 18, smashed a Baltimore police car with a traffic cone. Yet the police officer reportedly ended up with a much lower bail than Bullock — a difference that Baltimore protesters say is another sign of a criminal justice system that's skewed in favor of police officers.
Bullock turned himself in after the April 25 Baltimore riots, and, according to the Guardian, his bail was set at $500,000 — a sum his family says they can't afford. His family now says they regret convincing him to turn himself in.
Goodson was arrested on Friday after Baltimore's state attorney announced five criminal charges against him: second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence), and misconduct in office. His bail was set at $350,000, according to the Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton.
The difference in bails — which are set based on the seriousness of the crime, past criminal record, ties to the community, and risk of flight — has triggered backlash from protesters and their supporters.
One public defender told Newsweek's Polly Mosendz that high bails are common in Baltimore. "This is a jurisdiction that struggles with setting bails for people. Our office has been working on high bail for quite some time," Marci Tarrant Johnson, a public defender in Baltimore, told Newsweek. "People in Baltimore often refer to bails as ransoms because they're impossible to meet."
But Johnson acknowledged the rioters' bails are being set "prohibitively." "Even though the bails are usually very high," she said, "commonly people who are charged with disorderly conduct are released" on certain conditions.
Others suggested courts are trying to make an example out of Bullock. "By turning himself in, he also let me know he was growing as a man and he recognized what he did was wrong," Maurice Hawkins, Bullock's stepfather, told the Guardian. "But they are making an example of him, and it is not right."
Whatever the reason, protesters aren't happy about it — and it's not helping calm the situation in Baltimore, which has been mired by tense protests and some riots over the past week.