Ohio judge substantially reduces murder suspect’s bail, citing recent state Supreme Court ruling

An Ohio man charged with shooting four people at an apartment complex, killing one, and wounding three others, just had his bail substantially reduced by a county judge.

The judge, in that case, cited a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling that declared excessive bail to be unconstitutional if the arrested individual was incapable of paying it, according to local CBS affiliate WKBN.

What constitutes excessive bail

Marquez Thomas was arrested in connection with the Dec. 27, 2021 shooting that left one dead and three others injured and faces one count of aggravated murder and three counts of attempted murder.

At a Jan. 3 arraignment on those charges, bail was set for Thomas at $800,000. Thomas’ public defender, however, asked the court to reduce that bail to $100,000, given that her client couldn’t afford the initial amount, had no prior felony record, had ties to the community, and that his family was keeping watch over him, among other things.

This led to a hearing Friday in which Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge John Durkin agreed with the lawyer and reduced the bail amount for Thomas to $150,000, though the judge also ordered Thomas to be placed under electronic house arrest and barred any direct or indirect contact with the victims or their families, should he be released.

In reaching that decision, Judge Durkin referenced a 4-3 ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court in January, known as Dubose v. McGuffey, that had upheld a state appeals court decision to reduce the bail of a murder suspect from $1.5 million to $500,000.

Bail can only be set to assure a defendant’s appearance in court

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported at that time that the state’s high court had determined that setting a high bail that was unaffordable as a means to keep an arrestee in jail ahead of a trial was “both statutorily and constitutionally unlawful.”

That case dealt with the arrest and bail set for Justin Dubose, who was charged with murdering a man in a robbery over marijuana, in which his bail had been initially set at $1.5 million, then reduced, then raised again, and finally reduced once more by an appeals court.

The reasoning behind that decision for both the appeals court and supreme court was that, per state law, bail was only supposed to be used to “reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance,” and that other nonfinancial tools were available to address concerns over public safety or flight risks, as well as that courts could set no bail at all for those truly deemed to be a risk.

“Public safety, although of the utmost importance, is not a factor relevant to the calculation of the bail amount,” the high court’s majority ruled. “A court may not impose excessive bail for the purpose of keeping an accused in jail.”

High bond is “in effect an order of detention”

In the case of Thomas, WKBN noted that Judge Durkin explained how the state’s Supreme Court decision “makes it clear that an $800,000 bond is in effect an order of detention,” given Thomas’ inability to pay it, and was therefore unconstitutional at both the state and federal level.

Thomas had been scheduled for another pre-trial appearance on March 8, with the actual trial set to begin on March 14, but the local outlet pointed out that those dates will likely now be pushed back to a later time.

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