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Fresno Court Changed Zero Bail Policy in December. Why Didn’t It Tell Anyone?



It took weeks before the Fresno County Superior Court revealed it revoked the zero-dollar bail policy. (GV Wire File)
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The Fresno County court’s policy of letting criminals go free on zero-dollar bail finally ended Jan. 4.

David Taub


It was one day too late to keep one suspected drug trafficker in jail — or at least on a $225,000 bail.

On Jan. 3, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office arrested a suspected drug trafficker — 12.5 pounds of fentanyl and heroin — were allegedly found. When Pedro Miranda-Muro only spent 16 hours in jail, let go on the zero-dollar bail policy, the sheriff’s office had enough.

The department vociferously complained in the media, about another dangerous suspect was returned to the community with no consequence — not even a financial incentive (i.e. bail) to behave. Other law enforcement leaders jumped in.

Bail Policy Changed, Weeks Earlier

One day later, on Jan. 4, the Fresno County Superior Court announced that the emergency bail policy was rescinded, and introduced the bail schedule for the new year. Law enforcement praised the move. Finally! they said.

Was it the outrage that the story caused, or a coincidence, that the bail policy changed one day later? No even shame can change public policy that quickly.

Through a request for administrative records, GV Wire examined minutes for the executive committee, the administrative division of the Fresno County Superior Court that sets court policy. The judges discussed the 2023 bail policy at their Dec. 19 meeting. All the county judges then voted on the policy during the week. It passed.

Sources tell me that part of the vote on the 2023 bail policy included revoking Local Rule 3.1.14, the emergency bail order in place since March 2020.

If the judges’ decision was tallied on the week of Dec. 19 (or even a week later), why did it take until Jan. 4 for the court to communicate its decision to jailers and the rest of law enforcement?

Logically, any change in the bail policy would start Jan. 1. If so, Miranda-Muro would not be able to bail out with $0. Dozens of others would likely stay in jail as well.

For the public’s peace of mind, Miranda-Muro was re-arrested, this time charged with a federal drug trafficking crime. In federal cases, bail isn’t set until a suspect sees a judge. Magistrate Judge Erica Grosjean ordered Miranda-Muro to remain detained at a Wednesday hearing.

So, why was the policy implemented on Jan. 4, as opposed to Jan. 1?

The court isn’t saying, despite repeated inquiries from this reporter. A court spokesperson just referred to the Dec. 19 discussion, and website announcement.

It is just another example of judges forgetting that they are elected and should answer policy questions from the media and constituents.

Fresno County Superior Court presiding judge David Kalemkarian. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Fresno County Court Leaders Silent on the Process

When it comes to access to the Fresno County Superior Court, hearings and the right to review legal records remain relatively open, COVID-era notwithstanding.

But, explanations in court policy, especially the implementation, and revocation, of the zero-dollar bail policy, need to be more transparent. Not even law enforcement and jailers knew what was going on until the court announced the policy change — made weeks earlier — on Jan. 4.

Judge David Kalemkarian, the presiding judge, needs to explain policy and be more open with the media and the public about major court decisions.

Judges are elected to their positions, just like mayors, state legislators, and members of Congress. Transparency on judicial policy decisions is just as important as how policy is made at City Hall, or the state Capitol.

Law Enforcement Reaction

Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said his office was not notified until Jan. 4 of the change in policy. He said that he is “thankful and glad” for the revocation of zero bail for serious crimes.

“Three weeks prior. Sure, that would have helped. But moving forward, this is what we have. We’re going to keep going forward. We’re going to keep doing our job, taking these people off the street and ensure they can’t go out there and commit these crimes,” Zanoni said.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp echoed those statements.

“It would have been nice to have it on January first. So it could have affected this case and we didn’t have to … go out and re-arrest,” Smittcamp said. “We are very excited at the DA’s office, too, to get rid of $0 bail because it is just a way for us to keep track of people. It’s a way just to make people accountable.”

About the Author

David Taub is a senior reporter for GV Wire.

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Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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