Shelby County judge discusses bond setting process in two controversial cases

Shelby County judge addresses more suspects being released on bond

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Low or no bond for suspected criminals have been a recent controversy, making headlines.

A Shelby County judge sat down with WMC Action News 5 to discuss the process of setting bond for suspects accused in sometimes violent crimes.

“When I heard this lady was murdered and that he allegedly murdered her, I thought, ‘I’ve been waiting for this to happen’ and this is what has to happen for him to get put away," said Bobby Stewart, victim.

Bobby Stewart is a nurse practitioner who filed a civil lawsuit against Baptist Memorial Hospital in East Memphis after she said Angelos Washington hit her twice, breaking her hand and two bones in her neck while she was attempting to treat him in the ER last year.

A week ago, Washington was charged with first degree murder in the death of a woman at a motel, as well as the shooting of two other people while he was out on bond.

Police: Man charged with killing woman at hotel

“The man was charged with assault which is a misdemeanor charge," said Judge Bill Anderson, Shelby County General Sessions.

General Sessions Judge Bill Anderson handled last year’s assault case against Washington -- and several medical personnel at two different hospitals.

Anderson says it wasn’t his choice to set low bonds for Washington on the misdemeanor cases.

“When you’re charged with a misdemeanor in Shelby County, and you go into jail, the bond is automatically set by the computer at $100," said Anderson.

The exceptions to that are DUIs and domestic violence.

The bonds are set to ensure the person shows up at court hearings and is not a danger to the community.

“He failed to appear in my court on three separate occasions," said Anderson.

Anderson said he doubled the bond. It’s something he says he’s always done, but the bonds were still low.

He acknowledges not showing up for court is a bad move that brings a new charge of failure to appear.

He also said he did not let Washington go on the misdemeanor charges. Instead, he says two of three of the cases were dismissed by the prosecution because witnesses did not show up.

Anderson also initially handled the cases of a trio of purse snatchers accused in five separate cases.

Purse snatching suspects return to court

He cannot talk specifically about those cases because they are still in his court.

Records show Anderson let them go without bond.

He said that is part of a new initiative the sheriff’s office received a grant for, an initiative being tried out in several large cities.

He said a formula is used to determine if the person is likely to show up for court and not commit another crime while awaiting the next court hearing and he says it is working.

“I think Shelby County is going to be thrilled with the stats that come out with this new bail setting initiative," said Anderson.

Anderson says what this means is that the bail system is fairer, not penalizing poor people.

The new initiative is also designed to relieve overcrowding in the jail, which will save taxpayers a lot of money.

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