New Jersey family sues state over bail reform law

Posted: Updated:

The Cumberland County family of a man gunned down in Vineland has filed a wrongful death suit against Gov. Chris Christie and Attorney General Christopher Porrino.

They blame the state’s new bail reform law for their son’s alleged killer being on the streets. June Rodgers says that her son Christian died in April when he was shot 22 times as he walked down a street in Vineland.

“The police report says they followed a trail of blood to find my son laying in a yard. It’s terrible,” she says.

Police say that Christian Rodgers was killed by Jules Black, a man who was released bail-free three days before the shooting. Black, a convicted felon with more than 20 arrests, had been charged with illegal possession of a handgun. He was released free on bail in accordance with the new bail reform law.

New Jersey’s attorney general has since made changes to the law to keep those with gun charges in jail.

“Certain types of people, we understand are slipping through the cracks,” says civil rights activist Mario Williams. “We need to redo the rules. The problem is the rules got redone after Ms. Rodgers lost her son.”

New Jersey lawmakers first passed the bail reform law as a way to keep low-income people from languishing in jail, unable to pay bail. It was also a way for people accused of non-violent crimes to get out of jail quicker.

The Drug Policy Alliance says that bail reform has reduced New Jersey’s jail population by 20 percent since it was enacted.

Supporters of the reform say that it is saving New Jersey taxpayer money. But bail bondsmen, including Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, say that they disagree with the measure.

“It’s terrible. People are dying,” Chapman says. “A bondsman would’ve never got that shooter out, or we’d have put him under supervision and we’d have had his mother, grandmother, somebody sign.”

Christian Rodgers’ family says he was a victim of the law's "test run."

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office refused to comment on the lawsuit.

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