Circuit Judge Terence Perkins this afternoon denied bond motions by both the prosecution and the defense in the case of Damari Barnes, the 16-year-old Palm Coast boy held on a first degree felony manslaughter charge in the shooting death of 19-year-old Jamey Bennett at a bonfire birthday party in February.
Barnes, who turned 16 three weeks ago, is being held on $500,000 bond, and is incarcerated at the Duval County jail in Jacksonville. The prosecution wanted his bond revoked following an incident in which Barnes allegedly attacked another inmate. The defense wanted the bond reduced to $100,000, so Barnes could go home. Perkins denied both, even though at one point he’d been inclined to lower the bond.
“Difficult issues, troubling issues,” Perkins said as he prepared to rule. “Very troubling issues. Having read everything here, and I would say this is one of the higher bonds I’ve seen under circumstances of this type. When I first came into the case, I was looking at reducing that bond until I read more about the case. And I think reading the kind of totality of circumstances, I’m comfortable with the bond. So with regard to the motion to revoke bond, I’m denying that motion. With regard to the motion to reduce the bond, I’m denying that motion too. We’re OK right where we are. I’m not saying that that’s forever, or that the facts of the case can’t change. Clearly they can, and I’ll take up any matters if and when they do.”
The difficult issues likely refer to Barnes’s age, his clean record until the shooting, his good standing when he was at Matanzas High School–where he may not return regardless, though his attorney, Steven Robinson, incorrectly intimated otherwise at a hearing in April–and Barnes’s mother’s plea with the court to have her son back while awaiting trial. Robinson had outlined all those issues for the court previously.
But the troubling issues remain: there was of course the one gunshot Barnes fired at Bennett after a very brief and, at least according to the evidence so far, minor physical altercation as Bennett was defending a girl from Barnes. But there are also the new allegations from the incident at the jail in Jacksonville, where on April 3 Barnes and one of his two cell mates were both charged with battery on their cell mate in what Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton described as “a calculated and coordinated effort by himself and his cellmate,” with Barnes as the primary aggressor.
“They both end up essentially battering this inmate both physically and apparently forcing him to drink urine,” Dunton told the court. “Then Mr. Barnes defecates in a toilet and they attempt to have him eat that when the incident is broken up. So it’s a significant offense judge, and based on the fact that he’s charged with a violent offense,” she was asking for the revocation. (See: “Damari Barnes, 15, Wants Out of $500,000 Bond in Man’s Killing But Lurid Detention Fight May Complicate Things.”
The incident was allegedly the result of inmates in a neighboring cell yelling to the alleged victim to say something sexual, which the victim refused to do, then having his cellmates beat him up fr refusing.
“I’m not here to argue the acts of the case in Duval county,” Robinson attorney said, but then did just that in one regard, disagreeing with the characterization of Barnes as the primary aggressor. He said Barnes had “never seen a jail in his life, prior to this incident,” and presumed that compared to most of the juveniles in the jail where he’s being kept, had no prior record. “I’m sure the court has heard and can’t imagine the stresses and the influences that are happening in an environment like that,” Robinson said.
He said there’s been no other incidents, and said his mother would welcome him back in her home but can’t afford a $500,000 bond. He asked for a “reasonable” bond of $100,000. “I want the court to consider the stresses he may be under,” his attorney said.
Barnes faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He had been scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on May 11. Robinson asked for a continuance and was granted it. Another pre-trial hearing has not yet been scheduled.