Durham, N.C. — Two Durham teenagers arrested last week in a home break-in in Orange County were both in a pre-trial release program at the time of the alleged crime.
Maurice Patterson, 17, of 1817 East Greer St., Durham, and Darrius Tyson, 17, 5214 Kurley Road, Durham, were arrested Thursday and charged with breaking into three homes over the past two months.
Tyson was charged with two counts of breaking and entering, one count of larceny and one count of possession of a stolen firearm. Patterson was charged with three counts of breaking and entering and two counts of larceny.
When Orange County officers took Patterson and Tyson into custody, they were wearing electronic ankle bracelets and were being monitored by Durham County because of similar charges there.
"You know, they put this little thing on his ankle, but he still did everything he wanted to do," Patterson's aunt, Diann McCrea, said.
McCrea said that under the pre-trial release program, her nephew was on electronic house arrest but was allowed out of the house during the day to attend school or work, yet did neither.
"No one came by during the day to see what he was doing," she said. "I asked what he was doing when he left in the morning. He said trying to get in school, but that's what he said. And no one kept track of what he was doing during the day."
According to the pre-trial agreements, Patterson and Tyson had a curfew, were supposed to have regular contact with their case managers, stay in school and have no contact with one another.
"They did not appear to pose a risk to the public, for public safety, and they both had stable residences," said Gudron Parmer, director of Durham County's Criminal Justice Resource Center, which oversees the pre-trial release program there.
Parmer said participants in the pretrial release program are recommended by the courts and are screened carefully. Most of them comply with their guidelines.
From July 2007 through June 2008, 70 percent of those in the program successfully completed it. Eleven percent faced additional charges while enrolled, and 13 percent failed to comply with the program.
Judges admit there is a chance they will re-offend, especially if they are not being monitored closely.
Tyson had six outstanding felony charges in Durham County from earlier this year and was due in court next month on those charges. Patterson had seven pending felony charges prior to the program. None of the charges were for violent crimes, but several were breaking and entering charges.
Durham Chief District Judge Elaine Bushfan approved Patterson for the program. District Judge Marcia Morey approved Tyson.
Because the cases are still pending neither judge would speak specifically about the cases. Bushfan said any general comments she made about the pre-trial release program could be construed in the context of the story as speaking about the specific case.
Speaking in general, Morey said she believes pre-trial release makes sense for non-violent offenders.
"Pre-trial is a pretty good tool for courts to use with overcrowded jails," she said.
Morey said when considering pre-trial release, judges take into account everything, including the suspect's age, record and home life.
"Do we worry? Of course we worry," she said. "We're part of the community. But there are very specific steps that we go through to try to weigh the risk and the benefit," she said. "Hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes, it will not work, but the majority of times, I think, it has been a very good program."
Both men have now had their pre-trial release status revoked due to the new charges in Orange County.