I-TEAM: Judge ‘abused’ power by granting convicted killer’s bond request, higher court decides
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A district judge in Baton Rouge is ordered to reconsider after awarding bond to a convicted killer challenging her life sentence.
A panel of judges sitting on a higher court decided the district judge, Raymond Bigelow, made a mistake and abused his power when he granted Meshell Hale’s request for a second bond in the amount of $300,000.
The panel decided that the second bond amount should not be the same as it was after Hale’s initial arrest, since Hale lost the presumption of innocence after being found guilty.
Hale was arrested in June of 2018 for killing her boyfriend, Damien Skipper, in June of 2015.
District Attorney Hillar Moore says he was surprised at Judge Bigelow’s decision but he’s satisfied with this ruling.
“I’m trying to think about 45 years and how many times this has ever happened. Maybe once or twice over 45 years,” said Moore. “We have a lot of respect for this judge who tried this case but just a little shocked by the fact that he gave a bond post-conviction and that the bond was the same amount based on the unique facts of the case.”
Moore calls it a slap in the face for the family and for justice because, under the $300,000 bond, Hale would only have to pay about $38,000 in order to walk free.
“She’s bonded out before on that same amount of money so it’s a small amount of money for a life in prison second-degree murder conviction.”
She was convicted and sentenced to life without benefit of parole in December of 2022.
The high court also decided Bigelow never considered whether Hale’s conviction for a violent crime would motivate her to go on the run, or if she could harm others while she walks free. For now, she will remain behind bars.
Bigelow, a retired judge, took on the case after being appointed to step in when Judge Christopher Dassau died last year. Bigelow’s role was temporary, ending in December 2022. Now Moore worries about someone new taking over the case so late in the process.
“The question is who is going to hear the case now and they’re going to be coming in without having heard all the facts of the case,” said Moore.
Hale is expected to be back in court in February of 2023.
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