There are 169 bikers in jail in Waco, now that Jeff Batley made $1,000,000 bail.
As Mark Bennett pointed out, the million dollar bail set for these bikers, due to nine dead and 18 injured in the Twin Peaks melee, is off the charts.
Each defendant has bail (not “bond”) set at $1 million at the moment; they have a constitutional (under the Texas Constitution) right to “reasonable” bail, so as they get lawyers and those lawyers file applications for writs of habeas corpus, the bail amounts will take a nosedive. In Texas (contra Las Vegas lawyer Draskovich, quoted by the LA Times) a murder doesn’t merit a million-dollar bail. In Harris County, for example, the standard bail for murder is $30,000. A person can be held without bail for capital murder, but only if the State jumps through some procedural hoops within seven days of the arrest and proves at a hearing that the proof of the crime is “evident.” Because there are very few bonding companies that can make a million-dollar bond (none in Houston, unless the defendant puts up a million dollars of collateral), a million dollars might as well be no bail.
But the local Justice of the Peace, Pete, applied his own rule of law.
I think it is important to send a message. We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in, and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.
What was that important message Pete had to send?
He said the bonds were “adequate” given the pending investigation and “because of the magnitude of the situation and the total disregard for the safety of others.”
In other words, they needed jailin’, and he was just the judge to do it. Both Bennett and Tamara Tabo run through the litany of problems this rather large group of defendants pose for McLennan County. Not enough lawyers to represent them, particularly since there are only abut 25 qualified indigent defenders and a lot more defendants in need of a lawyer.
This case will way overtax the resources of the county, at every point in the process, which is not a reason in itself not to address crime, but a reason to avoid one issue here that tends to escape scrutiny.
Contrary to everything you read about these outlaw bikers in Waco, this is not merely some amorphous mass group of criminals, but 170 individual defendants, each of whom is entitled to, and deserves, individualized treatment by the criminal justice system. Instead, they’re all going to be addressed as some mass group, each of whom is inexplicably culpable for whatever someone else is vaguely accused of doing.
Tabo touches on this point peripherally:
Earlier this week, police told the press that they expected to recover 1,000 weapons from the scene. Yesterday, they revised that number to 318, 118 of which were handguns. Police also confiscated knives, brass knuckles, and items like chains with padlocks.
How many of the items are actual weapons? How many of the actual weapons are actually illegal?
When the report is about 1,000 weapons, it’s easy to ignore the details, like since when is a chain and padlock a weapon? Don’t they use them to, you know, keep their motorcycles from being stolen? And knives? Aren’t there a lot of guys with knives in Texas? Are they Swiss Army knives or switchblades? Or butter knives, for that matter?
When you only hear about 1,000 weapons, these questions seldom get asked, no less answered. Now that we’re down to 318, it takes some of the sting out of the 1,000 weapons report, but still fails to answer the questions of what makes them illegal, or what did they have to do with anything that happened at Twin Peaks?
So far, all of the bikers arrested are being held for the offense of engaging in organized criminal activity leading to capital murder. That’s going to be tough to prove for most of the people arrested, many of whom will require state-funded defense counsel.
Twin Peaks is a barbecue joint favored by motorcycle enthusiasts and the occasional criminal defense lawyer. Was every person who rides a motorcycle there to go to war? Many had no prior criminal history, which militates in their favor, though not against. Is it a crime to like both bikes and barbecue?
You call bullshit. You say that if they were there at Twin Peaks when rival gangs were going to war, they must have been involved. Who cares what you say. You have no clue. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re wrong. But to reach your conclusion, you have to go through the evidence as to each individual biker’s conduct. Did he or she do something criminal?
But, but, but, you sputter, that’s impossible. It was a crazy scene, wild, guns shooting, blood spurting, outlaw bikers doing outlaw biker-ish stuff. How in the world can anybody say what each one of these 170 individuals actually did? Either we’re going to tar every person wearing colors, riding a bike, with a tat, or the guilty might go free. Why can’t the prosecution, like Pete the judge, just deal with them as one big group of bikers who “are not from around here” and spread out nine deaths to 170 people.
When accusations are made about a group, without any differentiation by individual actions, we fall into a dark hole where we forget that each and every individual arrested is entitled to be treated as an individual, culpable for what he did, but not for some mass accusation based on the body and faux weapons count.
Just as an otherwise lawful knife in the pocket of an otherwise ordinary biker suddenly becomes a weapon of mass destruction because someone else killed a guy, it requires us to parse the specifics rather than group each of the individuals together and pretend that their actions are undifferentiated because it’s so much easier to wrap our heads around the situation.
Maybe they are all guilty, each and every one of them. Maybe not. That’s what evidence is about, and if they have no evidence of criminal conduct for any individual, then he gets to enjoy the presumption of innocence and ride off into the Waco sunset. Got that message, Pete?