The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a constitutional amendment that would give judges the discretion to deny bond for defendants who are charged with a violent crime. The legislation was named for 19-year-old college student Aniah Blanchard, who was murdered by Ibraheed Yazeed, who at the time was out on bond for attempted murder and kidnapping charges.
The Alabama House overwhelmingly passed Aniah’s Law, House Bill 131, and its accompanying enabling legislation, HB130. Both were sponsored by state Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollinger’s Island.
Brown explained that district attorneys would be given the option of asking the judge to deny bond for a defendant. It would be “at the discretion of the judge” as to whether to grant the DA’s request. Aniah’s Law would apply in circumstances where a person charged with a crime was a danger to the community, a danger to themselves or posed a flight risk.
Blanchard’s murderer was given bail despite more than a dozen priors, which included drug and robbery arrests as well as kidnapping and attempted murder.
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Midfield, said: “I was in a wedding party with Aniah shortly before she disappeared and was part of the volunteers who searched for Aniah.”
“Aniah probably would be alive today if we had had this,” Coleman said.
Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, represented Blanchard in the Legislature at the time of her death when she was a college student at Southern Union Community College.
“There is nothing in our current law that would have prevented that person from getting out,” Lovvorn said.
Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said: “I am friends with Aniah’s stepmother, stepsister and cousin.”
“I want to commend you for bringing this back,” Givan said to Brown. “I am honored to be in a position to vote on this bill.”
Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, said: “Speaking on behalf of the law enforcement community this was a wake-up call. Thank you for giving law enforcement the tools that they need.”
Rep. Tracy Estes, R-Winfield, said: “Aniah’s parents were from my town. We lost a very sweet young lady who would be alive today if we had this.”
Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said: “I am going to vote for your bill. I am also friends with members of Aniah’s family, but judges can deny bail now.”
Brown answered: “This clarifies that they can if a defendant is a threat to the community, to themselves, or are a flight risk.”
Rogers said: “Any judge worth his salt is going to do the same thing now.”
Brown said: “It is a legal interpretation that they can’t. There are some judges who grant bail to everyone.”
“This bill was worked on with me by prosecutors, law enforcement and judges,” Brown explained. “They believe it is needed.”
Aniah’s law passed the House 101 to 0. It now moves on to the Alabama Senate. If it passes the Senate then Alabama voters would still have to vote for the amendment for it to be added to Alabama’s 1901 Constitution.