Ohio Supreme Court upholds $1M bond reduction in Colerain murder case
CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a $1 million bond reduction in a murder case – a decision one dissenting justice said was dangerous and “undermines the safety of our communities.”
In a 4-3 decision released Tuesday, the court agreed with a 1st District Court of Appeals ruling that said setting a high bond just to keep someone charged with a crime in jail before trial was “both statutorily and constitutionally unlawful.”
The Ohio Supreme Court said both the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution prohibit excessive bail, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The case involves 26-year-old Justin DuBose, one of three men charged in the July 2020 killing of Shawn Green during an apparent robbery in Colerain Township.
According to the Supreme Court’s opinion: At a court hearing in November 2020, a Hamilton County judge set bond for DuBose at $1.5 million. Prosecutors had asked for that amount, saying Green was shot in the head after DuBose and two other men went to his home to rob him. Police said a one-pound bag of marijuana was taken from the home.
DuBose then filed a motion to reduce bond, emphasizing his limited resources, his lack of a felony record and his ties to the community. At a February 2021 hearing, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Wende Cross reduced his bond to $500,000. Then a day later Cross restored the original amount because Green’s family hadn’t been notified of the hearing to reduce bond – which is required under a victim’s rights law that took effect in 2018.
At the second hearing, prosecutors presented new evidence – a photo posted on social media showing DuBose with multiple guns – and Green’s grandmother testified that the family didn’t “feel safe with him out on bond.” After resetting the bond at $1.5 million, Cross said: “This additional information that I’ve received today changes the consideration that I had the other day.”
Then in June 2021, DuBose again asked for his bond to be reduced. At a hearing regarding that motion, his attorney presented evidence showing that after the Green was killed, DuBose traveled to Las Vegas, stayed in hotels under his own name and posted updates on Instagram about where he was.
Prosecutors, however, said that when police in Las Vegas talked to DuBose about an unrelated matter, he gave them a counterfeit California identification card for a man named “Kevin Polanski” and claimed to be that man.
Cross denied that request to reduce bond.
Appeals court reduces bond
DuBose challenged that decision in the 1st District Court of Appeals, which in October reduced his bond again to $500,000. The appeals court also said DuBose, if he posted that bond, would be subject to 24-hour house arrest enforced by electronic monitoring and could have no contact with Green’s family.
In upholding that decision, the Ohio Supreme Court cited state law that says a judge “shall release” a defendant on “the least restrictive conditions that…will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance” at future court hearings.
The high court said it did not minimize the importance of the safety concerns of Green’s family. It said that those concerns could be addressed by imposing nonfinancial conditions, such as restrictions on travel as well as no-contact orders.
“Public safety, although of the utmost importance, is not a factor relevant to the calculation of the bail amount,” the opinion says. “A court may not impose excessive bail for the purpose of keeping an accused in jail.”
Among the three justices who dissented from the majority was Justice Pat DeWine. He said trial judges like Cross are in the best position to set bond. He said the Supreme Court’s opinion would invite appellate courts to second-guess judges.
“Make no mistake: What the majority does today will make Ohio communities less safe,” he said.
In a separate opinion, Justice Michael Donnelly, who spent 14 years as a trial court judge, said he was “appalled” by accusations like DeWine’s. He said the court’s ruling simply tells judges that “they must follow the rules if they want to hold defendants in custody prior to trial without the possibility of release before the trial.”
If a defendant should be held without bond, Donnelly said, there is a procedure that prosecutors can follow. That procedure, he said, is “not to set a bail amount so high that the defendant cannot afford it.”
As of Wednesday, DuBose was still being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center.
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