Attorney claims race is the reason behind murder suspect's high bail

Attorney claims race is the reason behind murder suspect's high bail
(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state judge reduced the bail for an attempted murder suspect accused of driving his car into a crowd of teens in Ewa Beach in 2016.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kim cut Malik Morton's bail in half, saying his previous bail of $1 million was "exorbitant."

The reduction came after Morton's attorney Myles Breiner alleged that race may have played a role in his client's high bail.

Breiner said Morton, a 2013 Leilehua High School graduate, had no criminal history and acted in self-defense. He also said Morton isn't a flight risk.

"There seems to be a pattern that if you're African-American and you're charged with a crime in Hawaii, your bail is extraordinarily high," said Breiner. "I've done informal surveys with many other attorneys who represent African-Americans, and it's not surprising that their bail is much higher."

But Deputy Prosecutor Dean Young said race played no role.

He said bail decisions have more to do with the seriousness of the crimes charged and whether a defendant has strong ties to the local community and isn't considered a flight risk.

"Many times, if there's an African-American defendant, they may not be from Hawaii and that increases the risk of flight. So race is not a factor at all," said Young. "This particular defendant is charged with the most serious type of charge in the state of Hawaii."

There's no definitive study on race and bail in Hawaii, but legal experts said the issue has arose numerous times across the country.

"Studies have been done nationwide that show that blacks, African-Americans, especially men, receive a higher bail," said Ken Lawson, co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project.

Lawson and Breiner urged the state or other groups to conduct a study of ethnicity and bail.

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