Appellate court rules bail must be lowered for two murder defendants

left - Brandon Brown, 22 right - Marquell Smith, 20

The 6th District Court of Appeals in Texarkana issued an opinion Wednesday overruling a Bowie County District Judge’s decision concerning bail for two murder defendants.

Brandon Brown, 22, and Marquell Smith, 21, were denied motions for reductions in bail by 202nd District Judge Leon Pesek, Jr., at a hearing in December. Brown’s bail is set at $750,000 and Marquell Smith’s is set at $1 million.

The men were arrested March 5 in Tulsa, Okla., while driving through town in a truck flagged as stolen and wanted in connection with a missing person case in Texarkana. The following day police discovered the body of 24-year-old Christopher Guilbeau in an alley behind a Texarkana, Texas duplex, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The men were brought from Oklahoma to Texarkana to face murder charges July 30. A Bowie County grand jury handed down indictments for Brown, Marquell Smith and Shamari Newton in mid-November.

At the December hearing, Brown’s lawyer, Al Smith of Texarkana, and Marquell Smith’s lawyer, Chief Public Defender Rick Shumaker, argued that the men should be released from jail according to Texas law. The law requires that if the state isn’t ready for trial within 90 days, a defendant who has been in jail for that length of time should be released on a personal bond or that bond should be set at an amount the defendant can afford.

Pesek refused to reduce Brown’s and Marquel Smith’s bails and the defense lawyers appealed to the higher court. In an opinion written by Associate Justice Ralph Burgess, the 6th District ruled that Pesek overstepped his authority.

The appellate court opinion states that the state couldn’t have been ready for trial in 90 days because the cases weren’t indicted for more than 100 days after the men were in Texas custody. The opinion also refers to testimony from a Texarkana, Texas police detective who said he has not provided the Bowie County District Attorney’s Office with a complete file and that the investigation is ongoing.

The 6th District opinion reverses Pesek’s decision and remands the case back to his court to address the issue of bail in light of the appellate court’s ruling. While Pesek may have to release the men, he can impose conditions of release such as a GPS leg monitor. A date for trial hasn’t been scheduled.

View Full Opinion issued for Brown (.pdf)
View Full Opinion issued for Smith (.pdf)

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