Judge rejects request to revoke bond for alleged Detroit cop-killer
Detroit – A Wayne County judge denied the prosecutor’s motion on Friday to reverse his decision earlier this month to give bail to a man accused of killing a Detroit police officer. The accused is not a flight risk or a danger to society.
Judge Lawrence Talon’s April 1 ruling in the case of Eddie Ray-Jr. Johnson sparked protests and harsh criticism from the Detroit police force. Johnson is charged with first degree murder related to June 2, 2019 when he killed Detroit Police Department Sgt.Elaine Williams, his domestic partner.
Talon’s April 1 ruling ordered the defendant to be released on a leash because of an unknown illness, reducing the defendant’s loan from pre-trial detention to a $ 100,000 / 10% loan. Police Chief James Craig and other officials called the judge’s decision “cowardly”.
After a nearly two-hour hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court on Friday, the judge denied a Wayne County Attorney’s motion asking him to increase Johnson’s bond with no 10% provision to $ 250,000.
Wayne County Assistant Attorney Maria Miller said in an email Friday, “A decision will be made to appeal the judge’s decision in the near future.”
After Talon made his decision to uphold Johnson’s loan terms, the judge said that Craig’s “personal attack” against him was a “threat to democracy”.
Talon said since he granted Johnson’s release from prison, protesters have picketed the Wayne Circuit courthouse in Detroit and his home in Livonia. He said someone put a picture of Williams and a letter in his mailbox Friday morning asking him to change his decision on a loan.
The judge said someone also sent him text messages about the case, including a link to an April 9th Detroit News story entitled, “Craig at the vigil for the murdered cop: Judges ‘cowardly’ on loan.”
“I shouldn’t be reading about the case, but you couldn’t miss it,” said Talon. “It says right in the headline that my decision was a cowardly one.
“I believe officials have the constitutional right to call other officials cowards … but I also believe that government officials, if they attack judges in person, pose a threat to the independence of the judiciary and, as such, a threat to democracy represent, “said the judge.
Craig replied, “I’m not denying what I said. I said it on the file because I felt it for him. I am deeply disappointed with his decision.”
Mark Young, president of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, who picketed the judge’s house, said after the hearing on Friday that demonstrations will continue amid Talon’s decision.
“I’m just speechless,” he said. “This is injustice. What message does this send to victims of domestic violence? What message does this send to law enforcement?”
Talon cited several factors that led his decision to deny prosecutors’ motion to increase Johnson’s loan, including evidence suggesting Williams shot Johnson first.
“Based on the testimony of the medical examiner and the state police report, a reasonable conclusion is that the defendant was shot first,” the judge said. “He claims Mrs. Williams shot him first and that he got the gun and shot her.”
Talon said the jury could find Johnson guilty of crimes ranging from first degree murder to manslaughter. “I’m not saying these will be the judgments,” he said. “I’m just saying if you look at the likelihood of conviction, they could make any number of possible judgments.”
Craig replied, “It sounds like (Talon) is making a self-defense claim on (Johnson).”
Williams was a mother of two and a 14-year-old Detroit police veteran who worked in the Serious Crime Division. Her 12-year-old son was at home when she was shot five times, although Johnson reportedly removed his birth son from the house prior to the shooting.
During his indictment a week after the murder, Johnson was transferred to Wayne County Jail. The charges were downgraded to second degree murder after Johnson’s two day preliminary investigation, although Talon later reintroduced the first degree murder charges.
“Domestic violence is a terrible thing,” said Talon. “But not all domestic violence means that the person accused of domestic violence is a danger to the public. She is often a danger to the other partner.”
Talon said he does not take the protests against him personally.
“I cannot speak to you because of the judiciary’s code of conduct,” he told the demonstrators. “I can’t get outside. I can’t read your signs or listen to the chants, and I can’t look at the picture of Elaine Williams and the letter that was left in my mailbox this morning.
“In any case that goes to court, one side will be unhappy when the court makes a decision,” Talon said. “No judge is insensitive to the pain and sadness we’ve seen on both sides of the aisle.
“But I hope that even if you disagree with my decision, you hope and trust that you feel that you have received a fair hearing. The defendant is considered innocent.”