Kenneth Humphrey smiles while speaking with members of the media alongside his attorney Anita Nabha following his release on bail after being held in custody for nearly one year outside the SF Sheriff's Department's Community Division facility on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF Man in center of state bail reform released from jail

The man at the center of a landmark decision on California bail reform walked free from jail Wednesday after nearly a year behind bars.

Kenneth Humphrey, 64, had remained in jail since May 2017 because he was unable to afford $350,000 bail set after he was arrested for allegedly robbing his 79-year-old neighbor and threatening to suffocate him with a pillowcase.

But in January, a California appeals court found it was unconstitutional for judges to set bail without considering a person’s ability to pay and ruled that Humphrey was entitled to a new bail hearing.

At that bail hearing last week, San Francisco Judge Brendan Conroy ordered his release to 24-hour detention at a residential treatment center with a tracking device on his ankle while he awaits trial.

“I feel pretty good,” Humphrey told reporters, wearing a red suit he purchased at a second hand store. “I’m gonna make it.”

The January decision set a precedent for San Francisco and for the state, throwing away bail schedules which did not take income disparities into consideration.

“Mr. Humphrey didn’t set out to become a hero in the bail reform movement, but his case has unquestionably made the justice system fairer for countless Californians,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office represented Humphrey and filed the appeal in his case.

District Attorney George Gascon has since asked the California Supreme Court to review the decision.

Sheriff Vicki Hennessy previously told the San Francisco Examiner the ruling has resulted in more defendants being released from jail before trial who would not have been released before the decision.

“I didn’t think it was gonna happen,” Humphrey said. “I thought I was never gonna see the streets again, to be honest with you.”

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