From the start of 2014 to this May, 85 murder suspects were granted bond in DeKalb County, and at least 68 were released, a months-long investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.
The practice of releasing murder suspects before trial also goes on in Fulton County, though it’s rare in Georgia’s other most populous counties, Gwinnett and Cobb, the paper learned.
Releasing such suspects has led to criticism from some of the victims’ families, as well as prosecutors and police.
In most cases, the defendants aren’t accused of more violent crimes while awaiting trial, but in some cases, it’s goes wildly wrong.
Such as when Judge Asha Jackson allowed the release of Taiquan Mitchell, who cut his ankle monitor and ran from court just before the jury found him guilty last year.
And when Judge Linda Workman let ex-DeKalb Sheriff’s deputy Derrick Yancey have bond in 2009. He fled to Belize and had six months of freedom — and hope that he’d never pay for murdering his wife and a day laborer.
And when Judge Clarence Seeliger OK’d bond for Martavis Mathis, who was facing murder charges in two deaths, and then got arrested on a new murder charge.
Judges are expected to weigh a variety of factors when deciding if a defendant should have bond.
Do they have a prior record? Are they likely to flee or try to influence witnesses? Are they dangerous?
Another important factor: Do police seem to have a strong case?
“Folks never know the facts of the case. They know what they’ve seen on TV,” DeKalb Chief Superior Court Judge Courtney L. Johnson said. “I think all the judges on the bench take their duties very seriously. They take the idea of granting a bond very seriously.”
Even if a judge doesn’t want to give bond, the law requires Georgia courts to grant it if the suspect hasn’t been indicted within 90 days of the arrest.
Then the victims’ families are left to wonder what happens next.
For more on the AJC’s findings about bond for accused murderers in metro Atlanta, visit myAJC.com.
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