CHICAGO - A Cook County judge on Thursday reduced bail for a pregnant woman charged with first-degree murder so she won’t have to give birth behind bars.
The decision got no argument from prosecutors, even though just last week they asked a different judge to hold Keshia Golden without bail.
Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord Rodgers said that, after reviewing the case, her office would support Golden’s release on her own recognizance — meaning she would have to post no money to get out of jail.
But, Rodgers added, prosecutors had no intention of dropping or reducing the murder charge against the 33-year-old expectant mother.
At an Oct. 25 hearing, Judge Barbara Dawkins ordered her bail set at $2 million.
Prosecutors claimed Golden and Sidney argued on Oct. 22 over who could use a microwave to reheat food, and that Sidney shoved Golden into a counter.
Family members separated the couple, but Golden got a knife from the kitchen and then sought Sidney out in a bedroom, where she plunged the blade into his thigh, severing an artery, leading to his death hours later, prosecutors claimed.
Golden had also been accused of stabbing Sidney in the neck during an argument in August but he declined to press charges, prosecutors noted.
On Thursday, Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler gave a different version of what happened that night.
Sidney, 29, allegedly dragged Golden by her hair into the bedroom and she had stabbed him when a family member was unable to pull them apart.
Golden had previously called police more than 50 times to report abuse by Sidney, Koehler said. The defense attorney added that Sidney lost custody of his children in Wisconsin with another woman when he was accused of physical abuse.
Keshia Golden | Chicago Police Department
Koehler cited a 2019 Illinois law that set a state policy against jailing pregnant women unless they are believed to be a danger to the community. Golden had never been arrested before, Koehler argued, and could stay with her sister if released.
Judge Mary Marubio noted that Golden repeatedly claimed she had acted in self-defense. Despite that, the judge said, she believed Golden should have to post some amount of money to be released, given the seriousness of the charge.
Marubio reduced Golden’s bail to $50,000 — which would require her to post $5,000 bond to be released. The judge, who appeared to struggle with the decision, said she ultimately decided that releasing Golden was "in the best interests of this unborn child."
Golden would be required to call an officer of the court on a daily basis and could have no contact with the victim’s family or any witnesses in the case.
Whether Golden can come up with the funds wasn’t immediately clear. Koehler said she would be seeking financial support from a community bond fund while Golden’s family also sought to raise money.
Golden’s sister, Renesha Ellis, 25, said she was concerned for the health of her sister and her unborn child. "My sister is not a danger to the community… we just want to get her home and healthy to deliver," Ellis said.
A status hearing was set for Friday to see whether Golden will be able to come up with the required bond. If she can’t, Koehler could argue for a further reduction.
Koehler said Golden’s case was an example for how state courts will benefit from the SAFE-T Act, a wide-ranging criminal justice bill that is set to eliminate cash bail in Illinois on Jan. 1.
"It’s incredibly arbitrary," Koehler said of the $2 million bail set in Golden’s case. "Either she’s a danger to the community, or she’s not … [and] she’s not," she said. "This is exactly the type of case that the SAFE-T Act will address."
Another benefit the act is providing additional time for defense attorneys to investigate a case before a hearing is held on whether to detain their clients, Koehler said, adding that Golden would never have received such a high bail in the first place if the extent of Sidney’s alleged abuse had been known at the initial hearing.
A spokesman for the Cook County sheriff’s office said that, as of Thursday evening, two pregnant women — including Golden — were being held in the jail awaiting trial. Details on the other case were not immediately available.