Prosecutors, police, attorneys frustrated by 'revolving door' of criminal justice

Posted at 7:08 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 12:29:02-04

An Arizona murder suspect was on the run from authorities when police say he strangled a mother on a city bus.

Joshua Bagley was arrested in Phoenix Tuesday night.

ABC15 pressed for answers and multiple agencies admitted mistakes were made that played a factor in Bagley's release just 72 hours before the alleged murder.

Lake Havasu City Police Department said extradition failed to happen after Bagley was arrested on their warrant in Mesa in early April. The department told ABC15 the Mohave County Sheriff's Office was notified of their desire to bring Bagley back to northern Arizona for prosecution, but the pick-up never happened.

That mistake in April led to Bagley walking free again in May, just before the alleged bus murder.

Lake Havasu City Police Department failed to update the warrant, after Bagley's prior arrest, so he was released again as officials scrambled to update the document.

At his most recent court appearance, after Goodyear Police Department arrested him for being in a stolen car, Bagley was the only one in court who acknowledged he likely had an active extradition warrant.

"More than likely I'm going to be extradited because of the case in Mohave County," Bagley told a judge, who responded that he should talk to his attorney.

Bagley walked out of jail 48 hours later, after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office chose not to charge the case right away and, instead, sent it back to Goodyear police for further investigation.

"When they got out, they don't have anywhere to go. They don't have the resources that they need," said Jocquese Blackwell, a Valley defense attorney.

Blackwell notes that many people caught up in the "revolving door" of the criminal justice system are caught up in a substance abuse problem or have underlying mental health issues.

In a separate case, Arnold Serrano's defense attorney said he struggled with drug addiction when he was repeatedly arrested. Serrano was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated assault stemming from a police shooting, pursuit, and serious crash last year

"He began using heroin and methamphetamine at the age of 14 with an older cousin, and has been using ever since," said his attorney at sentencing.

At the sentencing, both Serrano's attorney and the Maricopa County prosecutor addressed the "revolving door" issue with the judge.

"In a very short period of time, he has five open felony cases here in Arizona. His life of crime has frighteningly escalated, judge," said Maricopa County Prosecutor, Mark White. "I can't help but — and I'm a part of this — help [but] think how the criminal justice system as a whole has failed the victims of Arnold Serrano... The justice system in California and in Arizona has failed."

The defense attorney agreed.

"Part of the issue here is the revolving door, as a result of low bail and sentencing guidelines," said Raymond Kimble. "I firmly believe, had [Serrano] remained in custody on one or two of the previous offenses, as opposed to just being released, he would have had a much earlier opportunity for treatment, and likely would not have been in this position today."

No one can predict what someone will do once they are released from jail. Prosecutors and police could never have known that Bagley would go from a string of car thefts, to allegedly strangling a woman on a bus.

These are examples though of convicted felons being released and immediately committing another serious offense, as opposed to being held accountable for their prior crime.

Steven Love-Mason is accused of murdering two people inside an apartment in north Phoenix. Ten days before he allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend, Love-Mason was in jail, apparently unable to post bond for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend a month earlier.

According to Phoenix police, the man has had three domestic violence-related convictions within the last seven years.

"So there's issues on all ends, it's clearly a revolving door," said Jack Litwak, a private defense attorney. "Because we're not utilizing assets appropriately to get people the type of help that they need."

"A number of our clients don't have the resources and the support that they need to stay out of trouble," said Blackwell.

"If we had less of a punitive system and we started to gear our system in Arizona, more towards rehabilitation, we wouldn't have such a saturated system," said Litwak.

Even though Arizona is fifth in the country for incarceration, prosecutors and police argue criminals are not being held accountable after they are arrested.

"The low bonds, being on release — it just allows criminals like Arnold Serrano to continually get out of jail and to continually commit crimes," said prosecutor Mark White.