published Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Judge rules Jumoke Johnson Jr. was denied due process

  • photo
    Jumoke Johnson is led away from the bench by a bailiff after Judge Christie Sell doubled his bond and ordered him taken into custody on Friday, May 4, 2012. The hearing was regarding a charge of aggravated assault that stemmed from a jail house fight the last time Johnson was incarcerated.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
    enlarge photo

An 18-year-old senior at Brainerd High School may get to walk in Saturday’s graduation ceremonies after a Hamilton County judge drafted an order to have him released him from jail and placed on house arrest.

Jumoke Johnson Jr. was not given due process Friday during a bond hearing in General Sessions Court, Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman wrote in the order. In Friday’s hearing, General Sessions Court Judge Christine Mahn Sell did not issue an order and state a reason for doubling the teen’s bond and having him taken to jail.

“The petitioner’s bond was modified without a hearing and furthermore ... the court failed to set forth in writing the reasons for its action,” Steelman wrote in the order.

On Monday, Steelman — who already had placed Johnson on house arrest in relation to other charges — reduced the bond.

Hank Hill, a defense attorney representing Johnson on an aggravated assault case stemming from a jail brawl, filed a petition Monday to have the teen released on house arrest on grounds that Johnson was illegally detained on the basis that the process was in violation of the Constitution.

On Friday, Johnson had no attorney present. He was given no notice and did not have a hearing to increase his bond.

Members of the legal community have expressed concern about other cases in Sessions Court receiving similar treatment where judges merely take the word of prosecutors and increase bonds.

Hill is contemplating filing a judicial complaint against Sell.

Johnson faces a variety of charges, ranging from assault to drug possession but has no convictions on his record.

“Very surprised, glad and thankful,” said Anna Johnson, as she sat at her Avondale home waiting for her grandson to return home. “I’m just happy right now. Don’t know how long it will last, but I’m just happy right now.”

Chattanooga police say Johnson is documented as a member of the Rollin’ 60 Crip gang. He has been connected to numerous shootings by police, but he has never been charged.

Gerald Webb, who is representing Johnson on a majority of his cases, said such a release petition is rarely granted.

“That almost never happens for someone to be released on a habeas [corpus petition],” he said.

Faculty at Brainerd said Johnson is intelligent and shows promise of being successful if he leaves Chattanooga and enters the military. Graduation is the first step.

Johnson will be the first member of his family to graduate high school.

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