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Hipple, Long, Ware, & Peete

AJC 1 in 4 people facing homicide charges make bond

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sister article with case by case descriptions :eek:

Accused of murder but not in jail

One in four defendants 
in Fulton County is out on bond awaiting trial

By Bill Torpy and Bill Rankin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

12:14 p.m. Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jean-Pierre Devaughn carried out a hit for his cousin, killing her husband while he visited Atlanta, police say. The victim had recently bought $500,000 in life insurance.

Matthew Mitchell was furious that a robbing crew invaded his home and terrorized him, his girlfriend and her young son. Five days later, Mitchell and five others found a running buddy of the robbers. They allegedly fired 80 rounds, hitting the man 30 times.

Michael Hunter and Terrance “Spank Nitty” Mewborn went to a Sandy Springs apartment, police say, to settle a beef with Ronnie Davis. They encountered Davis outside his home and killed him with one shot, according to court testimony.

All these men face murder charges in Fulton County. All are free on bond.

They are among about 40 accused killers walking the streets while waiting for their cases to go to trial. They represent almost a quarter of the defendants in Fulton facing murder charges.

Not all of them wait around. Hunter and Mewborn disappeared after posting bond and are fugitives. Gerardo Perez, charged with a drug killing, has vanished and is likely back in Mexico. And Mahboob Pasha, a convenience store clerk charged with killing a man stealing malt liquor, was released to get medical treatment. He fled to Pakistan.

The subject of murder suspects being released on bond became a hot issue in August when, police say, Antoine Wimes, 17, shot a woman in the face and battered her 1-year-old son at her Chattahoochee Hills home.

A year earlier, police said, Wimes strolled into a Cascade Road convenience store, lured the clerk from his protective area by asking for a T-shirt and then shot him twice in the chest and once in the back, killing him.

Wimes was arrested in February and released on $250,000 bond weeks later by Judge Karen Smith-Woodson, a Fulton magistrate who sometimes presides as a Superior Court judge. Wimes was supposed to be homebound, with a GPS monitor strapped to his ankle. But he cut off the device, left the house and committed the home invasion, police said.

Angered, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard challenged his county’s judges publicly, asking why murder defendants are often granted bond and why magistrate judges, who are not elected, are often the ones granting it. Howard released a list of 43 murder defendants who were released on bond.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution examination of those cases found most defendants were granted bonds of less than $100,000, meaning they could walk out of jail after putting up $10,000 or less. All have pleaded not guilty.

Georgia law sets four questions for judges to consider in bond hearings:

● Is there a significant risk the defendant will flee?

● Is the defendant a threat to the community?

● Is the defendant likely to commit another felony?

● Is there a good chance the defendant will intimidate witnesses or obstruct justice?

Fulton prosecutors almost always object to releasing murder defendants on bond. But that’s part of the problem, said Doris Downs, chief judge of Fulton’s Superior Court.

Prosecutors know their cases better than anyone else, but by consistently opposing bond, they opt out of the decision-making process and make it more difficult for judges to make informed decisions, Downs said.

Every judge on the Superior Court who’s been here any length of time has had the experience of denying bond when the state claimed to have a very strong case,” she said. “We’ve also experienced discovering a year later at trial that there was no evidence, after holding and incarcerating an individual for a year or more at a time. That weighs heavily on our minds also.”

Deciding whether to grant bond in serious cases is one of the most wrenching decisions a judge must make. “We definitely lose sleep over this,” said Downs, a former Fulton assistant district attorney. “It is our absolute worst nightmare that a citizen would be hurt by someone any one of us felt was entitled to release.”

Downs noted that Superior Court judges have the discretion to appoint magistrate judges to oversee bond hearings and often do because Superior Court judges are handling heavy case loads.

Her remarks angered the district attorney, who said on Friday, “I, like law enforcement officials and 99 percent of the citizens I meet, believe such releases should rarely happen.”

In a statement, Howard said judges are blaming police and prosecutors for their own “seemingly poor judgment.”

Atlanta police Lt. Keith Meadows, head of homicide, was similarly annoyed. “To say we’re presenting weak cases, that’s just disingenuous,” he said.

The homicide unit has a 92 percent conviction rate, Meadows said in an interview Friday.

He acknowledged that there are some murder defendants who may not be a threat, are entitled to bond but don’t get it.

But then there are defendants such as Wimes, he said.

“It should have been apparent that he was a person who never should have been entitled to a bond — that he was a threat,” Meadows said. “There’s just no consistency from one judge to the next.”

In response to a request under the Georgia Open Records Act, the Fulton DA’s office said that, since 2005, it has an 87 percent conviction rate in homicide cases that went to trial and where juries reached a verdict.

Downs’ office pointed out several murder cases since 2007 in which charges were either dismissed, reduced or the defendant was acquitted.

● Wendell Brown was accused of striking and killing a drunken man who was throwing bottles at people. He was denied bond after prosecutors objected. Brown was acquitted after spending a year in jail.

● Monique Bradford shot her husband to death, but evidence indicated it was an accident. She was bonded out over objections and was acquitted after a trial.

● And Jerome Wade was charged with shooting to death a man he had accused of repeatedly burglarizing his home. Wade told police he heard a noise that sounded like a break-in and found Jason Ferrell smashing his car windows with a hammer. Wade was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Gwinnett DA Danny Porter said it is rare for murder defendants in his county to get bond and was surprised so many in Fulton got it. Cobb DA Pat Head, in office a decade, could not recall more than 10 murder defendants in Cobb getting bond. The DeKalb DA’s office said it does not keep statistics on bonds.

Defense attorneys said Howard, in his fourth term in office, is hard-nosed and unyielding in cases involving a death, no matter the circumstances.

They complain that he often brings felony murder charges in cases that don’t warrant them and then refuses to back off. These cases, the defense attorneys say, often involve skimpy evidence, unreliable witnesses or unlikable victims.

“I have had prosecutors tell me they’d rather prosecute a case and lose than go to Paul Howard [with a plea deal] and have him yell at them,” said defense attorney Bruce Morris.

“It clogs up the system,” Morris said. One example, he said, was a client of his, Scott Douglas Taylor, who was charged with murder for a 1998 death. His case ended in a hung jury in 2003.

On Sept. 20, 1998, Naeem Mollette was handing drugs into a vehicle as part of a street sale when the driver hit the gas. Mollette, who was wearing a house arrest monitor, hung on for about 50 feet, fell off and was run over and killed when the driver backed up hurriedly to turn around.

Taylor, the alleged driver, spent a year in jail before he was released on $100,000 bond. He has remained out on bond since his trial in 2003. Morris said the prosecutor was deciding if he should retry the case.

Jean-Pierre Devaughn, charged in the murder-for-hire case, should have been denied bond because the killing was so cold-blooded, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski told Judge Marvin Arrington at a bond hearing.

“This was, ‘Please kill my husband and I’ll give you some money,’” Dunikoski said, noting the victim’s family opposed Devaughn’s release. When it became apparent that Arrington would grant bond, Dunikoski argued for it to be stiff — $500,000.

Too much, Arrington responded. “I don’t know no family, black or white, who got no $500,000 cash money,” he said. “And if you do that, somebody is going out and rob somebody.”

He halved the amount. Devaughn posted bond in July.

On Friday, Arrington said Devaughn was granted a bond before the case was assigned to him because the Fulton DA’s office failed to indict Devaughn within 90 days after his arrest — which gave him an automatic right to a bond. After Devaughn’s indictment, Arrington said, he granted bond because the defendant showed that he would not flee, commit a crime or threaten witnesses.

Matthew Mitchell, a former Atlanta high school basketball star and stepson of State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, was released on $500,000 bond. Family members said he had a job waiting. Prosecutors opposed bond, fearing he would intimidate his former girlfriend, a key witness in the case. They alleged that he had already beaten her up.

Ash Joshi, a former Fulton prosecutor who represents Wimes in the murder case, said at first blush, the number of released murder suspects is “staggering.” But “as you have a greater volume of cases, there will be a number of weak cases. What is frustrating to a prosecutor is you believe a person is guilty but don’t have the evidence. A judge has to act on the evidence.”

Joshi said there were several factors in Wimes achieving bond: “His age, there was not a great deal of evidence and he had good ties to the community.” About 20 relatives attended the hearing. Joshi argued Wimes would not be a threat to the community.

Prosecutor Jack Barrs disagreed. “This was just a person who shot and killed somebody for no reason that’s apparent to the state or anyone else,” Barrs said at a pretrial hearing. “It indicates that there is great concern that he is a danger to the community at large.”

Last week, Joshi was unapologetic, saying he did everything he could to get his client a bond, just as prosecutors fought to oppose it.

“They did their job, and I did mine,” he said.

How we got the story

AJC reporters Bill Torpy and Bill Rankin spent almost a month examining the case files of 43 murder defendants who had been granted bond in Fulton County. They reviewed hearing transcripts, bond orders, indictments, police reports, autopsy reports and court motions. They also interviewed judges, prosecutors, police and defense attorneys about the bond process in Fulton County.

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“Duck” Ferguson took brother to hospitalDonald “Duck” Ferguson, 52, got into a heated argument with his younger brother in May 2007 and knocked him to the ground, breaking the brother’s hip.Ferguson then loaded his brother into a grocery cart and wheeled him to the hospital. Two months later, Richard Ferguson died of complications from the hip fracture.Fulton prosecutors opposed bond, saying Ferguson had prior convictions for serious crimes. The public defender asked for a $10,000 bond.“Look, I am sorry but I believe — I’m not sorry,” Superior Court Judge John Goger told the defender. This was a murder case, and a bond of $30,000 was “extremely reasonable,” Goger said. Ferguson posted bond in October 2008

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I'm guessing :suds: played a part in this.

Kicked out of a concert, she plunges to her deathAfter Charles Martin and Pamela Boyd were kicked out of a Police concert at Philips Arena in November 2007, witnesses saw the two yelling and pointing fingers at each other.Martin, 29, shoved Boyd, who tumbled down a stairwell, a witness told police. Boyd had reached out for Martin but he stood still and folded his arms, prosecutors said. Martin then ran down to Boyd and was overheard saying, “If you don’t get up, I could go to jail for this.”Boyd, 44, died five days later from head injuries.At Martin’s bond hearing in April 2008, Boyd’s brother urged the court to keep Martin behind bars, saying that “one day those bars may open for him, but my sister is never, ever going to climb out of that coffin.”Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore set bond at $250,000 and later reduced it to $150,000. Martin has yet to post bond and remains in jail.

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two for price of one.

Out on bond for shooting, man charged in anotherKevin Gross was in the front seat of a car going north on I-75 in September 2006 when he pulled a gun and, without provocation, turned and shot a man in the back seat, police said.One of the bullets struck Tafari Myers in the carotid artery. His body was found later that day in Anderson, S.C., after another of the car’s passengers alerted police.Gross was charged with murder. In March 2007, Fulton magistrate Richard Hicks granted him a $100,000 bond and later reduced it to $50,000. Gross posted bond on April 9, 2007.A year later, Gross had jumped bond and returned to his home in Washington, D.C., police say. In July 2008, police say, a Washington neighborhood gang set out on a shooting spree, killing or wounding at least five people in three separate incidents. The next day, Gross and three men went looking for revenge, police say. They were charged in the shootings of two people.Gross was indicted in the attack in August 2009.

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Panhandling attempt turns into a deadly fightAt 1:50 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2008, Wanique Odwin, 27, approached a vehicle at the Shell station at 14th and Spring streets and asked for money. Odwin started arguing with a passenger, Kashma Avery, who got out of the vehicle.The driver joined the argument and then yelled to Avery, “He’s got a gun!” Avery was shot and stumbled into the business, where he died.Odwin was arrested minutes later at a homeless camping area nearby. Avery, a security guard, was carrying a Taser, and Odwin told police he was afraid Avery would use it on him.Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall set a $175,000 bond after Odwin’s family (his father is operations chief at WRFG 89.3) told him Odwin has a child, came to town to get a job as a chef and would live with family.The prosecutor contended it was either an armed robbery or aggressive panhandling and Odwin could have walked away after “it turned into a battle of words.”

I love that when he was panhandling there was no money. When he kills someone they pony up 175,000 (or 12% of that if thru a bonding company)Side note. I used to live 3 blocks from here. yikes. Of course a panhandler who kills someone he doesnt know is a great guy to be out and about.

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Plumber given bond after road-rage killingZakar Yasharahla, 37, had just finished a plumbing job and was driving south on I-85 when he tried to merge into a lane at the same time as the Jeep Cherokee driven by Anthony Newberry.Both men took the North Avenue exit and began yelling at each other at a red light. They drove on to the next light, where Newberry got out of his Jeep and approached Yasharahla.According to court records, the two got into a fight and Yasharahla fatally stabbed Newberry, 23. Yasharahla was charged with murder and granted a $75,000 bond on May 22, 2007. He posted three days later and awaits trial.

:thumbup: wow. Yeah. I'd love to call a plumber late at night and have THIS GUY show up at 4 am?

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Last words: ‘I’m not afraid of your gun’At about 4 a.m. on Oct. 22, 1997, Ernest Golden saw a man with an AK-47 walking in the parking lot of the south Atlanta motel where Golden lived.Golden, who reportedly was drunk, said, “I’m not afraid of your gun.”He was killed by a single shot in the torso.At the 1999 trial, Joe Anthony Carr’s attorney argued that it wasn’t Carr who pulled the trigger but his brother, Bernard. “He looks like Joe Carr. If you look at the Carrs, they all look alike,” the lawyer said.The jury found Joe Carr guilty; he was sentenced to life.Years later, Bernard confessed to his brother when the two were serving time in the same prison, and he wrote a note to the court admitting to the killing. “It’s time for me to face up and deal with what I’ve done!” he wrote.In January, Judge Constance Russell signed an extraordinary motion for a new trial. Joe Carr, now 31, was released on $123,000 bond and is living with his mother in Conyers. The prosecution has appealed Russell’s ruling.

wow. This sounds like a John Grisham novel.

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Plumber given bond after road-rage killingZakar Yasharahla, 37, had just finished a plumbing job and was driving south on I-85 when he tried to merge into a lane at the same time as the Jeep Cherokee driven by Anthony Newberry.Both men took the North Avenue exit and began yelling at each other at a red light. They drove on to the next light, where Newberry got out of his Jeep and approached Yasharahla.According to court records, the two got into a fight and Yasharahla fatally stabbed Newberry, 23. Yasharahla was charged with murder and granted a $75,000 bond on May 22, 2007. He posted three days later and awaits trial.

:headbang: wow. Yeah. I'd love to call a plumber late at night and have THIS GUY show up at 4 am?
Seriously? The defendent 37 is approached by a 23 yr old over a road rage incident and you think hes a bad guy? There isnt alot of information in any of your posts and yet at least half of them are the DA saying these are bad guys and the news media agreeing based off of no facts. There is a reason that the US constitution states that (paraphrase) "Innocent until proven guilty". The Gov't of that time was prosecuting people for political reasons. None of these people had been convicted and in some cases were exonerated. Why should they spend a year in prison awaiting trial if they dont have any decent evidence?

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