Wichita County leaders discuss Governor Abbott’s bail reform

The focus of that bill is protecting the public from accused criminals who may be released on bail
Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 7:43 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - The bail system in Texas could be changing because of a bail reform bill Governor Abbott set for lawmakers in a special session going on right now.

The focus of that bill is protecting the public from accused criminals who may be released on bail.

Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie says one of the things lawmakers are looking to do is give Texas judges the right to hold high risk offenders without bond, to keep them off the streets.

“For our judges to detain people that are a violent threat to our communities that is a very much needed. If that’s what their going to do with bail reform then I would be very much in favor of that,” said John Gillespie District Attorney Wichita Falls.

As the law stands now bonds are set by courthouses justice of the peace magistrates and if a judge wants to lower or raise a bond they have to go through an appeal.

“The bond schedule is a one size fits all measure and I really would like to see that replaced. It doesn’t distinguish between different types of offenses. So not all second degrees felonies are the same and not all first degree felonies are equally dangerous,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie says he wants district judges to be able to perform risk assessments on a case by case basis. A tool he wishes could have been used in past cases in Wichita County like the murder of Yajaira Garcia.

“Josh Cook he killed a student at Old High and he bonded out. He was out on bond and the community was very upset about that,” said Gillespie.

“Part of this came out of a Harris Count case. Where there was a single mom she was in jail for a misdemeanor offense but the bond was high she couldn’t make it. So she lost her job she wasn’t able to pay her rent. So it just a horrible downhill spiral on that person’s life,” said Judge Woody Gossom County Judge Wichita County.

However just because one offense may not be as serious as another Judge Gossom says he would like to see extra precautions in place if there are changes made, for those out on bail.

“We would want to put two additional people on to help monitor the people we have out on bond. Especially those that have a bond that requires a ankle monitor,” said Gossom.

Judge Gossom says the county will have to spend $250,000 for payroll, new vehicles, and ankle monitors if the bonds are reformed.

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