When Hollis Dean Garmon was released on bond from jail earlier this month, Sheriff Ted Paxton made no effort to hide his dissatisfaction.
Garmon is accused, among other crimes, of aggravated assault on a police officer. He was shot in October by a sheriff’s deputy who said Garmon grabbed a shotgun when confronted by the deputy and refused to drop it when ordered to do so.
After hospitalization, Garmon was jailed until he was released on $80,300 bond on Jan. 18. He has since been jailed again for a probation violation.
It’s easy to understand why Paxton was upset at the granting of bond in the case. A GBI investigation ruled the deputy’s shooting of Garmon was justified. It is easy to understand that the sheriff would question why someone with a lengthy criminal history alleged to have threatened a deputy with a shotgun was eligible for bond.
On the other side of the legal seesaw, however, is the fact that the vast majority of those who are arrested for crimes are allowed to post bond in order to be released from jail. As we are often reminded by students of our judicial system, arrests are not convictions, and those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Even those who, like Garmon, have a history of being proven guilty.
The district attorney’s office said Garmon’s medical condition as a result of being shot was a factor in the bond decision, and that he was not thought to be a risk to the community.
There is no black and white here; no easy answer. Bond negotiations between attorneys and decisions on bond by judges are made dozens of times each week as part of the slow grind of the local judicial system. There certainly is no reason to believe there is a lack of respect for law enforcement anywhere within the process.
That said, we wonder if the Garmon case received the priority treatment it deserved by all of those involved, or whether is was handled as just another pile of paperwork moving through the system.
We do believe that any case involving a threat to a law enforcement officer deserves a bond hearing before a judge, not just a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and defense attorney. We do believe that the case of anyone accused of threatening an officer of the law should become a top priority for all of those in the judicial system.
And here’s why.
In a 24-hour period earlier this month, 11 law enforcement officers were shot at various locations across the country.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the number of fatal shootings of officers increased from 49 in 2009 to 61 in 2010, an increase of 24 percent.
The men and women we depend on to protect us are increasingly in danger as levels of violence escalate nationwide. We have to make every constitutional effort to protect them when we can.