Bonds of varying amounts frustrate families on both sides of an incident

Published 3:36 pm Saturday, February 1, 2014

In 2004, District Attorney Michael Jackson ran for office, promising to set high bonds and crack down on violent crime, but recently Jackson has been criticized for setting a bond too low in a murder case.

Selma resident David Johnson III was arrested and charged with murder on Jan. 17 after allegedly shooting and killing a customer. Johnson was placed under a $100,000 bond initially. After posting bond, authorities later requested his return to jail after discovering charges were pending against Johnson in a separate, 2013 assault case.

Selma resident Lakeisha Prince used the case of her relative Lamarrious Prince as an example of an inconsistency in setting bonds on felony cases.

Lamarrious Prince was arrested in September on charges of attempted murder, discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling and discharging a firearm into an unoccupied vehicle. Lamarrious Prince was placed under a $2.7 million bond.

“To place someone under that kind of bond is crazy, it’s incredibly high,” Lakeisha Prince said. “We even have a statement from one of the victims that said he played no role in the shooting, yet he was placed under a $2.7 million bond. In the other shooting the man killed someone and he got a $100,000 bond; It’s unfair.”

Jackson countered her argument, saying every case is different and past offenses can lead to an increased bond. In Lamarrious Prince’s case, he was previously convicted of a felony before being arrested in September.

“A bond is a mechanism that is used to keep offenders in jail until they appear in court,” Jackson said. “No two murders are the same. Depending on what the facts are, that’s how the bond is decided.”

Jackson doesn’t have the final say on bonds, but often makes suggestions to police in murder cases.

Though Johnson’s bond was lower than other murder cases, Jackson said he has maintained his original campaign promise. Bonds in Dallas County on felony charges are often higher than other districts and exceed the bail schedule guidelines, according to Jackson. For example, Alabama’s bail schedule says murder suspects should receive a bond of $15,000 to $75,000.

Though Johnson’s bond was lower than other murder cases, it still exceeded the state guidelines, Jackson said.

“In the case of Mr. Johnson, the recommendation was made by the District Attorney’s Office based on the facts that officers presented immediately after the incident about possible self defense issues,” he said.

Lt. Curtis Muhannad, head of Selma Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division, said officers notify the district attorney’s office if they believe a suspect deserves a bond outside of the schedule. In turn, Jackson will make a suggestion based on facts presented to him immediately after the incident, Jackson said.

“All bonds that go outside of the schedule are ultimately determined by the district attorney,” Muhannad said. “We usually go along with the suggestion.”

Once police charge a suspect, bonds can still be changed, Jackson said. For example, Selma High teacher Latangila Williams was arrested in April for inappropriate criminal behavior with students. Her initial bond was just over $1 million. Jackson said District Judge Bob Armstrong later lowered it to $100,000.