U.S. editorial excerpts -3-.
Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:
IN JAIL WITH NO CHARGE (The Washington Post, Washington)
FERNANDO ANTONIO Cruz was arrested following a fight last October. He was charged in Prince William County with public intoxication and assault. The other man involved, who suffered a gash on his head, did not show up for a court hearing. So on Dec. 12, prosecutors dismissed charges. Mr. Cruz was free to go -- only he was held in jail for two additional months.
As Post staff writer Theresa Vargas recounted the disturbing tale, officers never brought Mr. Cruz to court for his hearing and -- apparently as the result of a simple oversight -- didn't release him after the charges were dismissed. The problem seems to have been that the jail and the court had Mr. Cruz listed by different names. In court records, his case is filed using the last name ''Antonio Cruz'' while the jail used only ''Cruz.'' The error got corrected -- and Mr. Cruz freed -- only when his brother approached a clerk in the court in February.
According to a defense lawyer present that day, Mark Voss, the Prince William court system has struggled with how to standardize Hispanic names over the years; many Hispanics use both their mother's and father's family names. But the court's clerk, Tawny G. Hays, denies that the incident was simply the result of administrative error on the court's part. She wonders why Mr. Cruz never spoke up during his two months of wrongful incarceration. (His whereabouts now are unknown.) She also notes that her staff is extremely overworked, and she points out that had Mr. Cruz's lawyer cited a case number when he followed up on the dismissal, ''the jail would have found him immediately.'' In an interview, she said that she ''didn't think it was an egregious error on the part of any of my clerks. It was just something that happened -- unfortunate.''
But that can't be sufficient. Such errors appear to be extremely rare. But they are intolerable whenever they happen. A review of basic procedures seems necessary now, particularly given the high workload that Ms. Hays cites.