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Boulder judge: No bond hearing without competency result

Although it may appear so to a defendant, the purpose of bail isn't to inflict punishment upon a person before a criminal case is decided. Bail is set to ensure that a Colorado defendant meets obligations in court. With few exceptions, according to the Boulder County Bar Association's Media Manual, bail is a criminal defendant's right.

Boulder prosecutors want a judge to revoke the $200,000 bond that has allowed a first-degree murder defendant to walk free for four months. The judge refused to proceed with a bond hearing until the 18-year-old defendant's competency for trial was resolved. Moving forward with the legal process before competency was established might compromise the defendant's constitutional rights, according to the judge's decision.

The judge agreed that bond revocation proof could be presented by prosecutors in the future after the teen is judged to be competent. A psychologist testified in August that the defendant was unfit for trial, but questioned whether the teen might be faking memory problems.The judge's order to have the defendant undergo a second evaluation at a state hospital was delayed by lack of room at the mental health facility. At the time, prosecutors pushed for higher bond because they believed the defendant was a flight risk.

The defendant is one of two teens charged with assaulting a 30-year-old mentally-disabled man in March while attempting to steal a video game system. The victim's injuries were fatal. Although charges against the teens were identical, the second defendant, apparently without competency issues, was denied bond.

Bail can be denied to defendants accused of capital offenses like first-degree murder when prosecutors can show the "proof is evident or presumption is great." The Boulder County Bar Association explains this standard as proof of guilt that exceeds probable cause but is less than evidence required to convict.

It's not up to a defendant to argue for bail. It's up to prosecutors to present valid reasons that bail should be denied or revoked.

Source: Daily Camera, "Boulder judge refuses to hear DA's request to revoke Aaron Tuneberg murder suspect's bond" Mitchell Byars, Sep. 04, 2014

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