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Ohio court rejects cash-only bonds

CINCINNATI - The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that judges who require cash-only bonds for jail inmates awaiting trial violate the constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

Justices ruled 4-3 on Wednesday in favor of Garey Smith of Cincinnati, who appealed his $1 million cash bond set after the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals overturned his murder conviction in 2004. He was jailed pending a new trial.

The court cited a previous decision justices made in 1993 that noted Ohio law specifies a defendant can meet bond requirements by cash deposit, pledges of property, or securities, or by a bail bond secured by 10 percent of the amount set by the court.

Wednesday's decision will not help Smith, who is now in prison on another conviction.

Smith's lawyer, Pierre Bergeron, who was appointed by the court, said the ruling will help defendants across the state. He added that bail is set to ensure a defendant returns to court, not as punishment.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the ruling was "something we'll have to live with."

Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said yesterday that the high court's decision, written by Justice Lanzinger, a former Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge, would not affect the cases of defendants here. The Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, which covers Lucas and six neighboring counties in northwest Ohio, issued a similar opinion on cash-only bonds many years ago, she said.

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