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Law should require hearing for homicide bond

Posted: September 23, 2012 - 12:00am

One of the frequent questions, and source for ignorant conjecture, to come up after the Wednesday arrest of the ironically named Lucky Jackson was about the amount of his bond.

Charged with first-degree vehicular homicide and driving under the influence for the Sept. 12 crash that killed 19-year-old Jordan White, Jackson turned himself in to Columbia County authorities Wednesday morning and later was released on bonds totalling $13,400.

Why so low? many people asked. Some took it a step further to contend that Jackson benefited from some “lucky” connections.

Here’s the deal: Bond amounts are prescribed by state law based on the charges. The sheriff’s office uses a seven-page fee schedule that dictates the amount of bond. For those charges, the bond amount is exactly the same amount for you, me or the son of the sheriff.

The only bond amounts not specified in the fee schedule are those for which bond must be set by a judge after a hearing. Jackson doesn’t face any charges that require a hearing, so his bond was set based on those standard fees. A family member bonded him out and he’s free until trial – exactly like anyone else facing the same charges.

Clearly, there are some people who aren’t happy about that. I completely understand, though I tend not to waste much time in impotent fretting except when watching the rain delay of a NASCAR race.

Here’s a better idea than fuming at reality: Contact your state lawmaker and ask him or her to file a bill raising the amount of the bond for a charge that involves someone’s death.

It made sense for lawmakers to pass a state law that mandates the amount for bonds statewide. If you are arrested for shoplifting in Columbia County, your bond will be set at $2,500. The cops in, say, Colquitt County shouldn’t be able to set your bond on the same charge at $10,000 just because they don’t like your looks – or at $25, because you’re a county commissioner’s nephew.

Likewise, I’m sure the Legislature had rational reasons for all of the bond amounts written into the law: $5,000 for first-degree criminal damage to property, $7,500 for battery, $25,000 for first-degree cruelty to children.

But $10,000 for first-degree vehicular homicide – the charge applied to a drunk driver who kills someone – just seems too low. Certainly, a crime in which a life is taken should have a bond higher than robbery by intimidation or sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of a housing project ($15,000) or arson ($25,000). The mandated bond for voluntary manslaughter is $50,000; that seems like a good number to apply to vehicular homicide, where the victim is equally dead.

But I’d prefer requiring a hearing before bond can be set on a vehicular homicide charge. Currently, you have to go before a judge for a bond hearing if you are arrested for selling schedule I or II drugs; why shouldn’t a judge decide your freedom if you’re accused of causing someone’s death?

Make a call and let’s get this changed. Maybe the next violator won’t be so lucky.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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Comments (1)

Riverman1

Related to this case

There have been calls for a crime lab of sorts for Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties instead of using the lab in Atlanta used by the rest of the state that could run blood alcohol and other tests. This is not well thought out. It would cost millions to have an accredited lab with a required medical director and full time staff required for maintenance and calibration of the machines. The idea is cost prohibitive even though we would all like to speed up the test results being made available to law enforcement and the DA.

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