Meet the Philly Judge Standing in the Way of Efforts To Stop Coronavirus Spread in Jails

Judge Anne Marie Coyle has rejected every emergency attempt to reduce prison populations.


On Tuesday, Philadelphia reported the first death of a jail inmate due to complications from the coronavirus, a 48-year-old woman serving time for robbery and trespassing due to be released this summer, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The city has identified 54 other inmates as also being infected.

But attempts to flatten the curve in Philadelphia's jails by trying to reduce populations and make it possible to keep inmates at a distance from each other have hit a roadblock: Judge Anne Marie Coyle of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. She is refusing efforts to get inmates and people detained in jails released to the point that the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that provides legal representation to indigent defendants, has informed the courts that they're withdrawing all cases set to appear before her.

The Inquirer reports that Coyle has denied all requests for emergency releases brought before her and even increased bail in four cases. At one point she apparently told attorneys "that they should be careful what [they] wish for."

Philadelphia County has 7,121 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 131 deaths related to the virus. As with many other jails and prisons across the country, both inmates and staff there face significant risk of spread. Both District Attorney Larry Krasner and the county's public defenders have both been looking through records to determine low-level offenders they believe could be released from jail. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court (prompted by a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union) has ordered judges in each county to monitor jails to make sure prisoners are able to comply with social distancing and hygiene guidelines to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order also tells judges that if the jails can't guarantee compliance with these guidelines, then the courts need plans to release low-level offenders, pretrial detainees, and people who have health risks, in order to reduce the risk of spread.

Krasner's office says they've supplied a list of almost 1,200 candidates for release. According to the Inquirer, 380 inmates have secured early release thus far.

But apparently not any who have come before Coyle, who has a reputation for merciless responses. She previously imposed a seven-year sentence on a man who had been on probation for shoplifting and subsequently missed probation appointments and failed a drug test. (This sentence was vacated in February by the state's Superior Court.) She does not appear to be a fan of Krasner, voted in by Philadelphia residents to reform the city's criminal justice system to make it less harsh.

Apparently repudiations from other courts have not chastened her, nor is she alone in her uncompromising approach. The harshness with which Philadelphia punishes people who violate probation became a national story when rapper Meek Mill ran afoul of a different judge who seemed to have an agenda against him. Again, it took a higher court—the state's appeals court—to stop that judge's behavior, too, and Mill's case has helped to publicize a reform movement which intends to scale back draconian probation systems that send people back to jail for small, technical violations of the rules.

Insisting on maintaining high incarceration rates doesn't just increase the risk of inmates becoming infected and dying, though that is itself a huge crisis and violation of our trust in the state to care for the people it's forcing behind bars. Infection tracking shows that having large numbers of people behind bars is leading to greater infection rates among prison staff, who then return to surrounding communities and risk spreading the coronavirus there. In other words, Coyle's cruel behavior puts a whole host of people at risk.

NEXT: The WHO Helped Spread Chinese Communist Lies About COVID-19. Now It's Lecturing People About Drinking During Quarantine.

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  1. So what is the problem here? Sounds like a no nonsense judge who is driving the Progs wild.

    Here is her CV.

    1. You know, when you’re giving a statement to the Philly Inquirer, it might be a good idea to proofread it:

      As a young A.D.A., I gained a first hand appreciation of the danger of firearms when a women open
      fired upon people in the City Hall Courtroom 196.

      1. LOL….still though, you don’t fuck with this lady in court. She seems like the real deal. The bonus is watching Mayor McDrunky’s head explode, along with his tool Krasner.

      2. HA! Reading her CV, I note that for one year we concurrently attended the same high school building.

        Given her personal/educational background and extensive DA’s office experience, I’m SURE that she considers every defendant in her courtroom to be GUILTY until proven innocent. (Sort of like the alternate-universe version of Saul Goodman.) So much for the presumption of innocence.

        Judgeships in Philadelphia are an odd duck. Candidates can run in both parties, so those wanting to be judges pay each political party for their endorsement (last I read, endorsements started at $35,000 and went up from there). The term is 10 years with a general election retention vote to continue for another 10, and so on. Those who play well in machine politics will be successful at retention. It’s a job for someone who values routine, a steady paycheck, a good medical/dental/retirement plan, and who aspires to nothing more than being happy running their own little fiefdom of a courtroom. It’s rare for this level of Phila judges to get promoted to higher rungs of the judicial or political ladder.

    2. Tough call…the jailers are newly minted cops who were basically forced into that hellish job. They carry badges and endure hell on Earth each day, just to protect the children. That makes them heroes in my book, so all that really matters is that they make it home each day, in one piece.

      Now, the prisoners? Fuck ’em! With a thick slab of government cheese on top and a double, extra-salty side of ‘no mercy!’ Sure, a petty crime might well end in what amounts to a death sentence, but you know something? Jails and prisons are filthy places filled with filth. They should have thought about that before breaking society’s rules, and they sure as hell shouldn’t have volunteered for probation if they knew they couldn’t hack it!

      As for the judge? She sounds like an honest-to-God limited government conservative and one of the few remaining jurists without a political axe to grind. As long as it irritates and spites people I disagree with, I’m all for her throwing reason, temperance and any semblance of justice right out the courthouse window! Hell…with any luck, it’ll splatter right on top of some filthy leftist defense attorney’s empty head!

  2. It seems that the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf (D), will be using his power to grant reprieves in order to temporarily release some nonviolent offenders nearing the end of their sentences – on condition that they go back to prison after the emergency is over.

    The governor can’t grant pardons or commutations unless the Pardon Board agrees, but he can unilaterally grant reprieves, which seems to be what he’s doing here.

    1. So why not focus attention on the official with the power, and the avowed intention, of addressing the very problem you’re discussing?

  3. >>The city has identified 54 other inmates as also being infected.

    like by needle?

    1. You bring up an interesting point. Does anyone care about the spread of HIV in prison or prison rape? No? Why is COVID-19 such a boogeyman for progressives?

  4. Meet the Philly Judge Standing in the Way of Efforts To Stop Coronavirus Spread in Jails

    Hi, how are you doing. It’s nice to see women in prominent positions of power.

  5. Anne Marie Coyle . . . product of nonsense-teaching schools . . . former prosecutor . . . clinger . . . Republican.

    She is cranky because after a lifetime of being beaten by her betters in the public debates she knows she will be replaced, soon enough, by a better American.

    1. LaSalle and Villanova? Yeah, that’s some real podunk schools there, gecko.

      1. big5 games @the Palestra were a hoot

    2. The Human Hemorrhoid speaks, and dropped a load of crap. Thanks.

  6. Apparently repudiations from other courts have not chastened her…

    The higher courts in PA have traditionally had enough of their own problems to follow up on the lower courts.

  7. lets ignore the murder of an innocent by a prisoner released yesterday because of the Kungflu fear. do innocents not matter. Even the LA sheriff who tried shut down gun stores said be prepared for more violence due to criminal releases 4000 and counting in LA alone. this is utter stupidity keep them in jail.

  8. Elaborating on a point I made above, the focus should be on Gov. Wolf and his use of the reprieve power to weigh the danger posed by particular inmates against the danger of the virus, and temporarily release selected inmates – and apparently the governor is working on that now – which the article ought to mention.

    Two key advantages of the reprieve approach –

    -All reprieve orders will bear the signature of a single elected official who can be held to account for wrongful releases or for wrongfully keeping prisoners locked up with the virus

    -After the reprieve is over – that is, when the gov decides the emergency is over – then the released prisoners will have to go back to prison to complete their sentences. This is better than using the Cornonvirus situation to justify outright sentence reductions – if the justification for releasing a prisoner is that they’re at risk of infection in prison, when the risk abates they can go back to prison for whatever it is they were convicted of. Unless, in a separate procedure, the prisoner is found to have an excessive sentence, which there are ways to reduce.

    1. Governor Wolf is term limited, I believe. He doesn’t give a shit.

  9. Once again ‘reason’ proves that it can do no such thing. If the virus is so bad out in the world that we all have to be sheltering in place and wearing masks, how is letting criminals (criminals!) out of jail going to make them any safer? Merely saying jail inmates face “significant risk of spread” is meaningless without numbers. Where are the data that show the rate of infection is significantly higher inside that outside? Or does ‘reason’ have jails confused with senior nursing homes?

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