Ohio justices spar over reduction of murder suspect’s bond

January 12, 2022 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A $1.5 million bond for a man accused of fatally shooting another in the head during a robbery was too high, a divided state Supreme Court said in a decision that led a dissenting justice to declare that the ruling would make Ohio “less safe.”

At issue in the court’s 4-3 vote was whether the initial bond set by a trial court judge for a man accused of murder in a fatal 2020 shooting in Cincinnati was too high. Justices upheld a lower court decision that lowered the bond to $500,000.

The victim’s grandmother testified that the family would feel unsafe if the suspect were released on bail, and authorities said the suspect presented a false ID when confronted after fleeing to Las Vegas, according to court records describing arguments in favor of a higher bond.

The state Supreme Court said neither detail was relevant to what bail amount was necessary to ensure the suspect’s presence at trial, and ruled in favor of the lower $500,000 amount. The higher figure was an unlawful attempt to set bail so high the defendant couldn’t be released, the court majority said in an unsigned opinion earlier this month.

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Dissenting Justice Patrick DeWine said the majority ignored the constitutional rights of victims for their concerns to be heard and the fact that trial judges are in the best position to determine bail by taking evidence and hearing victim testimony.

“Make no mistake: What the majority does today will make Ohio communities less safe,” said DeWine, a Republican and the son of GOP Gov. Mike DeWine. He added that by upholding the lower bond, “the majority brushes aside the family’s fears.”

In turn, Justice Michael Donnelly, a Cleveland Democrat, criticized those comments as “brazen accusations.”

“The fact that a defendant might have committed a terrible crime does not allow us to ignore the law,” Donnelly wrote.