One hundred thirty defendants, rounded up in the mass arrests that followed the Waco Massacre, remain in custody in the McLennan County Jail today. They are all charged with “engaging in organized criminal activity” and during their initial hearings they were all assigned bonds of $1 million.
Forty-seven defendants have bailed out in the last three weeks. The bail amounts are wildly inconsistent for defendants who are all charged with the same crime – which is, except for the Texas style rhetoric, murder on behalf of a street gang.
Three defendants have posted bonds of $1 million; two had to post $250,000; one was released for a price of $200,000; fourteen defendants were forced to post $100,000; twenty-five defendants got out of jail after posting bonds of $25,000; and two had their bails reduced to $15,000. The bonds total $5.755 million and represent a windfall to bail bondsmen of $575,500.
Texas officials have not offered an explanation for the disparity in bond amounts. Interested observers are forced to guess.
Meanwhile, Austin attorney Keith S. Hampton has petitioned the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to intervene in the Waco mess. Hampton told Philip Jankowski of the Austin American-Statesman, “If the county gets deluged with arrests it has a duty to assign judges to handle the backlog and is supposed to do it without delay.”
Hampton does not represent any of the defendants in the Waco case. He is simply frustrated and puzzled by the course of justice in Waco.
His petition asks the appeals court to order Third Administrative Judicial Region Presiding Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield (photo above) to start appointing judges from outside McLennan County to hear the bond reduction requests. The Third Region comprises the courts in 26 Texas counties. Among Stubblefield’s primary duties is “to assign visiting judges to hold court when necessary to dispose of accumulated business in the region.”
Finally, The Associated Press reports that “an inspector from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards showed up unannounced at the McLennan County Jail and adjacent Jack Harwell Detention Center after more than three dozen online complaints were received from suspects jailed after the May 17 shootout at a Waco Twin Peaks restaurant.”
According to the AP, “no issues related to minimum jail standards were discovered.