Antonio Marquis Willis, of Killeen, was residing with Tarah Ann Nichols when he found himself in trouble.
Multiple times on December 21st, Donte Samuels approached the house where Willis and Nichols were staying, even breaking Nichols’ car windshield at one point. After repeatedly asking him to leave, and being ignored, Willis shot Samuels with a revolver and fled the scene.
For these last two months, Willis was on the run, until he decided to turn himself in at a Killeen Police Department police station on Thursday.
Willis, who is now facing a first-degree murder charge, was booked in jail, and then Claudia Brown, Bell County Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, decided to set Willis’ bond at $4 billion, reportedly the highest bond in U.S. history. So high, in fact, that the Bell County Jail’s booking software couldn’t recognize the number and only shows the bail at $1,000,000,999. So far, Brown has refused to comment on her choice to set such an unrealistic bail.
Michael White, a Bell County attorney, said to the Temple Daily Telegram, “Bail is set to assure an alleged defendant appears in court and is also to protect the public, but it isn’t supposed to be a form of punishment.”
Another Bell County lawyer says that a judicial complaint should be filed because the $4 billion bail is unconstitutional. Essentially denying Willis of his 8th amendment rights against excessive bail and fines.
“This justice of the peace is abusing the bail process in an attempt to make a name for herself, as opposed to setting a reasonable and affordable bond as required by law, it makes a mockery of the process and a fool of her,” said White.
During her campaign for Justice of the Peace, Brown said, “Given the current climate of crime, poverty, joblessness, insecurity and unrest in our community, my background eminently prepared me to help confront the injustice that is plaguing our current broken justice system.” If anything, Brown is exacerbating it with this absurd and likely unconstitutional bond, not confronting it.
In growing numbers, defendants are filing lawsuits against unfair bails for indigent defendants. Harris County is currently facing two lawsuits because defendants say that their bail scheme is unfair and is meant to keep indigent defendants in jail.
Willis’ attorney, who is seeking a bond reduction, is Billy Ray Hall Jr. and the case is being heard by Judge John Gauntt in the Bell County 27th District Court.