Texas Whopper: $4 Billion Bond Set for Man in Murder Case | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

News from around the state of Texas

Texas Whopper: $4 Billion Bond Set for Man in Murder Case

Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown said the amount was meant to highlight a "ridiculous" trend of bonds so high they are effectively unpayable

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    A record-breaking $4 billion bond was set Tuesday for a Killeen, Texas, man who turned himself in last week to police.

    (Published Friday, Feb. 10, 2017)

    They say everything is bigger in Texas. It's now safe to say that applies to bail.

    A Texas court official said Friday that she imposed a $4 billion bond on a murder suspect as a jab at a "broken" judicial system that too often sets bond so high that defendants are forced to remain in jail.

    22 Dead in Explosion at Grande Concert

    [NATL] 22 Dead in Explosion at Grande Concert

    British police said an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena killed 22 people, including children, and injured more than 50. 

    (Published 6 hours ago)

    Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown said setting exorbitant bonds force too many people to remain in jail until trial. She called the trend "ridiculous."

    Brown said she wanted to impose a $100,000 bond on 25-year-old Antonio Marquis Willis when he turned himself in last week, an amount she said most people in the county would have difficulty posting.

    But she said she was challenged by law enforcement officials involved in the case who wanted a $1 million bond. Irritated, she then changed the amount to $4 billion.

    "I changed the 1 to a 4 and added a whole bunch of zeroes," she told The Associated Press. "At some point in time, I had to alert the system that I am a new judge and I'm committed to changing the system. And this was the perfect time, because this man had come in and turned himself in and they were starting the bail at $1 million."

    WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    [NATL] WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    Pippa Middleton and James Matthews kiss after their wedding at St Mark's Church in Englefield, England, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Middleton, the sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, married hedge fund manager James Matthews in a ceremony Saturday. Her niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were in the wedding party, along with sister Kate and princes Harry and William.

    (Published Saturday, May 20, 2017)

    Willis is charged with first-degree murder in the December death of a man at a house in Killeen, a city about 60 miles north of Austin. An arrest affidavit alleges the man was shot after repeatedly returning to the home after Willis told him to leave. Willis' attorney, Billy Ray Hall Jr., said he hasn't had a chance to review evidence in the case. But he said Willis has told him he's innocent.

    A state district judge lowered the bond to $150,000 later Friday. Brown had acknowledged her bond amount could be seen as a constitutional violation, noting that a judge could lower it.

    Brown, who was elected to a four-year term in November, told the Temple Daily Telegram that "everything in the system is broken," and she saw Willis' case as illustrating those failings.

    Seana Willing, executive director of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, said she couldn't speak publicly about a specific case. But she said judicial officials must adhere to rules of conduct, such as conducting themselves outside the courtroom in a way that their actions don't call into question their impartiality.

    The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    [NATL-NY] The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow on Sunday.

    (Published Sunday, May 21, 2017)

    "We would not ever advocate in our sessions to use due process rights as an opportunity to make a statement," added Thea Whalen, executive director of the Texas Justice Court Training Center, which provides training sessions for justices of the peace who are new to the position. "But that's a personal decision that each judge could make."

    Some state policymakers are pushing for reforms that would allow indigent defendants with low-level offenses to get out of jail without posting large amounts of bail money.

    According to the Texas Judicial Council, about a quarter of the 41,000 inmates awaiting trial in Texas pose little threat to the public but are incarcerated because they can't afford to post bail. In some cases, they have been unfairly identified as flight risks, the council said.

    A study by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found that the percentage of inmates waiting for trial 25 years ago was 32 percent. Now it's 75 percent.

    Brown, for her part, says she's OK with any criticism that may come her way.

    "I will be a fool all day long as long as the system is changed," she said.