Case Caption: Kahleem Rieara v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2012-0076Date: 11/27/2012Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

A Superior Court order denying a defendant's renewed motion for reduction of bail in a murder case is final for purposes of allowing appellate review under the collateral order doctrine, since it (1) conclusively determines the disputed question, (2) resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and (3) is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. Supreme Court Rule 9 requires the Superior Court to state on the record its reasons for imposing conditions of release pending trial and - to facilitate appellate review - orders granting bail or refusing to reduce bail or establishing other release conditions must contain more than mere findings of ultimate fact or a recitation of the relevant criteria for release on bail; they should clearly articulate the basis for the court's utilization of such criteria. When the court resolves a motion to modify bail and release conditions, it must make an individualized determination in order to ensure that the bail is not excessive. Any bail or conditions of release that are not tailored to achieve the purpose of bail are considered excessive and therefore unconstitutional. The mere fact that another judge, presented with another motion, had set those conditions is an insufficient basis on which to refuse to modify the conditions, particularly where the defendant's new motion includes additional evidence or new and different proffers. Here the defendant's renewed motion included information about a new proposed substitute third-party custodian and additional documentation regarding the real property of his proposed sureties. The court should have provided reasons for retaining the bail conditions as initially set. Nor did the court adequately explain how this defendant's two previous convictions, and four total previous arrests, required a bail in the amount of $250,000. While an abuse-of-discretion standard is applied to trial court decisions concerning release on bail and the sufficiency of the sureties, and factual findings are reviewed only for clear error, meaningful review is not possible where the trial court fails to sufficiently explain its reasoning. For these reasons, the trial court's order is reversed and the case is remanded for the trial court to more thoroughly explain its reasons for rejecting the renewed motion for reduction in bail.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion