GREENBELT, Md. - Grammy award-winning recording artist Fiona Apple recently spoke out about a federal lawsuit against Prince George's County officials.
Tuesday's argument in a Greenbelt federal court was about pretrial services within the county where Apple serves as a court watcher.
The general rule under the constitution is innocent until proven guilty. Typically, you're entitled to be free before you're convicted of a crime unless you're a flight risk or a threat to the safety of the community.
Lawyers for the inmates argued in court Tuesday that Prince George's County violates that rule and the constitution.
"We just said what we saw to support these plaintiffs," Apple said in a video message. "These plaintiffs sued pre-trial and some judges in Prince George's County."
The current system allows for a judge to decide during a bail hearing whether to release someone who has been arrested. Sometimes, a judge can authorize conditional release, and then inmates are sent to pretrial services.
What happens next was up for debate inside the Greenbelt courtroom.
The inmates have said that they languish in jail with no notification of what's happening or why they continue to be detained. The county says they have to go through a process to certify that the conditions are met for release — like a phone or a home address. That procedure takes time.
A mother of a juvenile who opposes the current system told FOX 5 that she's "pissed" because her son was authorized for release in June. Since her son's criminal case is still pending, she chose to be identified as "KP."
"He was released Aug. 30," KP said. "I don't think no teen would cope with that being placed in a box for 23 hours. No one … adults either. I'm pretty sure it was tough on him."
"Our loved ones are innocent until proven guilty, and they are allowed to go home to their families," said Dr. Carmen Johnson, director of Courtwatch PG. "Some people lose their jobs after one week of being in jail, just sitting there waiting for a pretrial. Some people lose their homes. Some people lose their children. Just one week will affect someone's life, and that's not fair."
Lawyers for the county said they were trying to do their best coming out of a pandemic with no control over how many people get arrested and how many people get referred for pre-trial services. They believe the county shouldn't be punished.
Lawyers for the inmates countered they shouldn't be punished for all of those things either. As for the county judges involved in the suit, their attorneys said the judges are entitled to immunity and a federal judge should not get involved in micromanaging what state court judges do.
Lawyers for the county judges argued that the lawsuit should fail because the judges named aren't overseeing these specific cases anymore and most of the defendants are no longer in jail.