Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson corrected Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) for misinterpreting an opinion she penned regarding the release of inmates amid the Covid-19 pandemic, calling him out for failing to read the entire order.
After admitting that his knowledge of the law comes from occasionally watching Law & Order, Tillis questioned Jackson on a “statement” she made at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You said, the obvious increased risk of harm that the Covid-19 pandemic poses to individuals who have been detained and the districts — that’s the District of Columbia’s — correctional facilities reasonably suggest that each and every, and I think that means everyone, every defendant who is currently in the D.C. Department of Corrections custody and who thus cannot take independent measures to control their own hygiene and distance themselves from others should be released,” Tillis said.
The senator then noted that Jackson’s remarks were made in April 2020, adding, “There were 12 or 1,600 — let’s call it 1,200, I’ll be conservative — people in the department of corrections. Do I read that statement to think that you believe they should all be released?” he asked.
“No, senator, you don’t read it correctly,” Jackson replied. “It was not a statement. It was a line in an opinion, and the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was really, obviously, a horrible and difficult time for all of us and what was happening at the beginning in the prisons, which was part of the criminal justice system that, as judges we were involved in … ”
Tillis then proceeded to interrupt Jackson, asking to provide “a little bit more context.”
He pointed to the fact that he has written letters to the Department of Justice pushing for the release of non-violent offenders in North Carolina at a federal correctional facility.
“I’ve also supported early release programs,” he said, adding, “How can I not read this to say that perhaps they should be released, irrespective of the crime for which they’ve been charged?”
“Senator, if you read two more sentences down, that is precisely what I focused on,” Jackson replied. “This is a case, United States versus Wiggins, where I was setting up my analysis as to why I would not be releasing Mr. Wiggins in this case.”
Jackson explained that Sean Ray Wiggins, who pled guilty to actively participating in a large heroin trafficking conspiracy, was arguing that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic merited a reconsideration of his current incarceration.
“What I said in that statement that you read is that it would seem as though something like a deadly pandemic, rampant in the jails, would justify releasing everyone, but I go on to say in that very opinion, Congress has indicated that we have to take each case individually,” she continued. “We have to look at the harm to the community that might be caused by the release of individual people.”
In the case, Jackson explained that the court ultimately determined that “Wiggins was a danger to the community within the meaning of the Bail Reform Act such that his pretrial detention was required.”
“Consequently, Wiggins’s emergency motion for release must be DENIED,” Jackson concluded.
Watch above, via MSNBC.
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