Damari Barnes, the 15-year-old Matanzas High School student and R-Section resident accused of killing Jamey “JuJu” Bennett, 19, at an outdoors party in early February, made his first in-person appearance in court Monday afternoon in hopes of getting his $500,000 bond lowered or eliminated while he’s awaiting trial. It did not go well.
The prosecution sought to revoke bond.
Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton filed a motion to revoke after a violent, lurid fight Barnes allegedly instigated against a cell-mate at his detention facility last week. That plus the fact that he fled the state after the shooting may make it very difficult for the court to lower the bond, let alone eliminate it. The nature of the fight at the detention facility–Barnes is accused of forcing his cellmate to drink urine and threaten him to east his feces–may itself become damaging evidence if the prosecution successfully argues for its inclusion at trial, if it gets that far–or may be yet another piece of evidence that pushes Barnes toward a plea agreement, the state already having several witnesses to the shooting.
It’s the state’s intention to use that evidence to attempt shatter the defense’s claim that Barnes is a good kid with no prior record who made one terrible mistake.
Barnes’s attorney, who seemed shaken by the prosecution’s motion even though he said he was aware of the jailhouse incident, asked for a continuance, since Circuit Judge Terence Perkins said he would not rule on the revocation motion without ruling on its opposite as well. A subsequent bond hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled. But by the time Perkins agreed to the continuance both sides had already made substantial arguments, each for its motion, thus opening windows wider than court documents already have into the state of the case at this point. Barnes’s position is precarious.
Barnes had taken his mother’s Hyundai to drive with two friends to the February 5 open-invite birthday bonfire for a teenage girl in the woods off the property of a self-storage facility at 3895 Old Kings Road North. One of the people in the car witnessed Barnes take a semiautomatic pistol from the driver’s side door and put it in the pouch of his hooded sweatshirt. That witness is expected to testify at trial.
Girls were dancing around the bonfire when one of them bumped into Barnes. He yelled at her, then shoved her, according to witnesses and as summarized in his arrest report. Jamey “JuJu” Bennett, a friend of the girl Barnes had just shoved, told Barnes he shouldn’t put a hand on her. The two had a “physical altercation.” Bennett then punched Barnes once. Barnes fell, got up, took out the gun from his hoodie and shot Bennett once, killing him. He then drove off in the same blue Hyundai he drove there.
Barnes then fled, first to Volusia County, then to Georgia before turning himself in to authorities there on Feb. 24. On March 16 he was charged as an adult with manslaughter, a first degree felony. The next day Circuit Judge Chris France at Barnes’s first appearance set his bond at $500,000. Barnes has since been jailed at a juvenile detention facility in Jacksonville on Sheriff Rick Staly’s request, since there is no juvenile capability at the Flagler County jail except for brief holds during court proceedings.
Monday’s bond hearing was detailed enough that Barnes’s mother testified–as nearly a dozen from Barnes’s circle, family and friends, many of them around his age, sat in the courtroom. Robinson asked Barnes’s mother a series of yes and no questions in a rapid, staccato style–has he ever been arrested before (no), has he ever been a problem at home (no), is the bond “too much for you?” (yes), do you own property in Flagler? (no), and so on. She said family would help if bond was reduced. He repeated several of the questions at different times, as if to keep the rhythm of the questions and answers going–a tactic aimed at establishing a sense of certainty and control from the Barnes camp.
“If the judge were to release Mr. Barnes to your custody with electronic monitoring, would you be okay with that?” Robinson asked her. “Yes,” she said. When Robinson asked her what she could afford, she said she could come up with $3,000 to $5,000, which would translate to a bond of $30,000 at most.
Again, he’d be welcome in your home?” Robinson asked. Barnes would return to Ranshire Lane in Palm Coast.
“Yes,” Barnes’s mother replied.
“And you would force him to comply with rules?”
“force him to attend school?”
He would not, of course, be allowed at Matanzas High School nor at any local public school, and would almost certainly be barred from school property, though the district would potentially make arrangements for remote schooling. Barnes then asked questions that sought to humanize Barnes: he was a full time student, played football, track, was involved in some church activities.
Then it was Dunton’s turn. The Assistant State Attorney immediately went to questions about Georgia, where Barnes had fled, to establish that his biological father has family there. “But it was some two weeks between the offense date and the arrest date, is that correct?” Dunton asked, before asking the sort of questions that elicited doubt about why Barnes was never in communications with law enforcement until he turned himself in. Robinson then cast the question differently: “He did not run, he turned himself in, correct?” he asked. “Correct,” Barnes’s mother said.
Barnes himself then answered Robinson’s questions–the same yes-and-no questions he’d asked his mother, as well as asking him whether he turned himself in once he learned he had a warrant. “Yes, sir,” Barnes answered.
Robinson then argued bond should be lowered so Barnes “can have an opportunity to conduct himself as a 15 year old until these charges are resolved.”
Dunton had no witnesses. Only arguments: that Barnes shot a man in “a single-punch fight on behalf of the victim to which the defendant responded by shooting him.” One of the elements in a bond lowering is whether there’s been probable cause that another offence has been committed in the interim. That’s when Dunton pulled out the “new crime that has committed to the Duval County jail.”
Citing the arrest report, Dunton said “it lays out his facts, but it’s actually pretty egregious. It’s not just a simple battery or mutual fight that occurred in a jail.”
The report is detailed: Barnes was sharing a cell with L.M. and M.B., both 17. On April 3, inmates in a neighboring cell ordered L.M. to yell something sexual to them. He refused. The inmates told Barnes and his other cell-mate to beat up L.M. Barnes, the report states, “punched the victim […] several times as the victim stood against the cell wall. The victim offered no resistance.” M.B. stood at the cell door with a blanket, shielding the view from outside. A corrections officer approached, ordered M.B. to remove the blanket and shined a light inside. The officer detected nothing and walked on. M.B.–who is also facing charges as an adult–then “shoved the victim several times and pushed the victim’s head into the toilet.” After the victim sat on his bunk and dried himself, Barnes “went to the toilet and dipped something inside before returning to the victim and shoving it in the victim’s face,” according to the report. “Barnes then sat on the toilet and appeared to defecate” as M.B. beat the victim until an officer returned and came to his aid. The victim would later say that Barnes had defecated at the other inmate’s request “and they had threatened to make the victim eat it.”
The incident was documented on video surveillance and resulted in a new charge against Barnes, a third degree felony.
Robinson wasn’t prepared to argue the state’s motion. Perkins said he “wasn’t going to hear one without the other.” So the hearing was adjourned to an indefinite date, but likely to be later this week.
I can’t imagine any judge who would be idiotic enough to lower this perps bond. He should be segregated in jail for the safety of the OTHER inmates.
Sounds like his bond should be increased.
Let me make sure I understand, the same woman who raised the 15-year old male accused of murdering JuJu in front of eye witnesses is all of sudden going to be responsible for keeping him in check so he can go about life as a teenager while waiting to be tried for murder? Somebody help me out here, I’m confused.
Lance Carroll says
Very good question.
Agree…if this happens the courts are lost.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Another black on black murder…It happens in Daytona, Jacksonville, Orlando & Tampa and all citys in between evey day. He wanted to be cool, now who,s the fool? Keep him in jail!
Former - Democrat says
25 yrs I was registered democrat! And many poor people think democrats are for the poor! Lol It’s so sad that Democrat run this states and cities and they are ruined from high crimes, and democrats complain and say “We have a systematic racist”
Mondexian Mama says
Politics: The religion of the feebleminded.
Comical statement I should say.
That’s mighty White of you to say…out of all the countless white on white situations/crimes that has been displayed on this page you never said anything about another white on white…what’s your point? People usually commit crimes in their communities and in most cases the victims are the same race…surprising….lol…
The Geode says
What is NOT “lol” is the percentage, amount, and severity of the crimes. There’s nothing surprising or funny about that…
Lol “severity” it’s crazy to me that most people thought that fake news started when Trump was in office…for years, decades…the media portray black and brown people as violent people…they always reported on violent crimes and not on the positivity of what’s going on in a lot of the communities…they shed limited light on white communities and the crime…you know what’s not really calculated in the FBI stats related to crime white collar crimes…I wonder why…let’s compare the crime stats of the black communities in Bunnell to that of the mondex….tell me what you get…
The Geode says
You kidding, right? Do you know how much crime is ignored due to “color”? Do you know how much crime is “glossed over” because of race? Obviously, you don’t live in a black community like my black arse do and I can tell you that I would rather take my chance with a meth-head breaking into my house than a “jit” cracking my sull or shooting me for some dumb shit.
I just happen one of those rare blacks who don’t excuse or pretend that there isn’t a problem. You sit safely in your houses and blame “guns”, “poverty”, “systematic racism”, and us being “perpetual victims”. I know it’s the trendy thing to be “liberal” and pat us on the heads like we are the “loyal pets of the Democratic Party”. I’ll tell YOU what, why don’t YOU show me the places (Google it if you have to) that is experiencing the crime that we do. I’ll wait.
The media wouldn’t hesitate to showcase a white mass murder to let us know how “racist” this country is. Remember “Kyle Rittenhouse”? He was called a racist white supremacist and was the on the “A-block” of liberal media for MONTHS – even though he killed white people. He was a piss-poor klansman, huh? Know what the media WON’T do? Show the DOZENS of people who will be killed this weekend, or the one before that, or the one before that -yada-yada-yada…
While you’re at it, tell me of the unsolved murders you have in Mondex since that is your point of reference
The fact that you assume I am liberal and “sit safely in my house and blame guns, poverty, systematic racism…” tells me everything I need to know about you…lol and more lol..because you have the slightest clue…crime ignored by people of color…? Lol again I think you are “kidding.” There is not much that does not go unreported in black communities…if google is your most sensible internet resource, buddy you are way in over your head with me…the issues are real not because someone said so because I have lived it…I’m in the place I am in because I kept my focus and over came every obstacle and challenge that tried to inhibit me…but I understood that what was within me was sooo much greater than what opposed me…I could take you on a history lesson but you will get lost and cite the buzz words of today’s society…you have each political affiliation drown out the reality of what’s going on…I don’t care about dems or repub….why fight for civil rights if it never was an issue why fight for equality if it never existed why redlining was and is such a thing…why opioid is a crisis and crack is not…why is marijuana classified as a schedule 1 drug…?…I digress… deuces…by the way no one is pretending there isn’t a problem there is…I am doing something about it what about you mr. Rare black man living in a black community lol what black person says that…here I go again “lol”
He’s a real sweetheart. Throw away the key.
Despite his age the Perp murdered another in cold blood (Allegedly) really an incident that should have been minor in its consequences. The fact he shot him then fled to another State then has new charges, the likes of which are revealing to his low character, tells me he is s danger to Society and should stay locked up. Maybe forever
Concerned Citizen says
Firstly. I do not understand why there even a bond on a homicide charge. Has our Judicial System here just decided to not do their job?
Then he goes on to exhibit remorsless characteristics in custody. And we are supposed to feel safe with him out and about? No thanks. He needs to stay in jail. And answer for what he did. And hopefully he will try that crap on someone next time who has nothing to loose. Might be a different outcome for Mr. Wannabe tough guy.
LMFAO he should stay in there he doesn’t even deserve a bond and i hope him and his family knows that and too his family your child killed some one who didn’t deserve to die when he did and to the family i hope your child rots in those cells
He should get no bond
He’s already in his new home in that jail & awaiting a new home in a FL prison. Why let him out to potentially create new victims in this community.
Sick of the violence says
This fine young 15 year old has already proven to be a morally corrupt individual who does not belong in society. The violence has gotten out of control, and it’s time to keep these violent offenders locked up!! He should be held on no bond for Murder, and this new charge, of MORE VIOLENCE (depravity at best) while incarcerated shows he is exactly where he needs to be. Let’s not forget Zaire Roberts, who was released a year early after shooting someone in broad daylight, only to go right back into the thug game as soon as he got out. That cost him his life, but more violence could have been avoided had he stayed locked up.
And Mom helped this fine young 15 year old by helping him get to Georgia? Get out with that nonsense that she promises she will keep us all safe.
He doesn’t call the shots in court the Judge does. He should have thought about it before he continues to break the laws and his acts of violent should not allow him to bond out and the bond needs to be increased.
If he is being tried as an adult he should be immediately be given the right to vote!
Taylor smith says
y’all forgetting juju was a “thug” or made him self look like one always in fights.He had a upcoming case as well for shooting up a house with 2 of his buddies.Stop playing sides
Playing Sides there’s only one side IMO. The kid MURDERED someone. Thug or not the Dude shot him then ran with the help of his Family to another State. His upcoming Court Cases etc. makes it OK for him to die at the hands of another Thug.? Really? WOW
Juju fam says
Ok but he’s dead now so he deserved to die is what u are saying? So the murderer deserves bond but made his cel mate eat his shit this is the 15 year old we want out ? He fled the state so he know he did something wrong 😑
Neighborhood Watch says
How did this kid even get a bond? Should be no bond. He killed someone(witnesses there), left the scene and then fled the state. No bond. And with the case of Aaron Thayer (who allegedly attempted to murder his GF) had no bond. No one was physically injured there.
Why the difference in standards? Someone who killed another (happens to be AA) gets a bond but the white guy who never injured anyone gets NO bond? Makes you wonder about potential reverse discrimination….
BE TF FR says
What does his race have to do with anything?? Racial discrimination has NO part in this. Let’s be honest right now.
Raise the bond and keep him in jail and fine his lawyer for even asking such a thing., .