Trials: Using the System

In its own perverse way, the nation's ailing economy has done for Black Panther Joan Bird what the legal system would not. Last week, after 15 months in jail on charges of conspiracy to bomb public places, friends raised Joan's $100,000 bail and she was set free. The bail was in the form of New York State municipal bonds, and the irony was they had cost Joan's benefactors only $40,000.

The key to springing the 21-year-old former nursing student was a severely depressed bond market that enabled her lawyers to arrange the purchase of the necessary paper for less than...

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