Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot pointed to the county’s system for setting bonds as the reason that a white man caught on video viciously beating a Black woman isn’t behind bars.
Austin Shuffield was released on $2,000 bond the same day he was locked up for attacking 24-year old L’Daijohnique Lee. He was charged with misdemeanor assault on Thursday for a parking dispute that escalated. Dozens of protesters have taken to the streets to call for felony hate crime charges against him.
“A black woman was violently assaulted in Dallas, TX by a white supremacist. The response by the criminal justice system was woefully insufficient. Now it’s time to get that corrected,” civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt tweeted on Sunday night.
Creuzot said he has been advocating for judges to allow prosecutors into the courtroom when they set bonds, he told WFAA-TV.
“And had we been present and had known more about it, it’s possible we would have asked his bond to be higher,” the district attorney added.
Dallas County is one of the few places across the nation where bail hearings are held behind closed doors, according to the Texas Tribune. Judges in the county typically exclude lawyers, family and media outlets from observing or participating in the process.
“In most cases, the encounter between the judge and the accused lasts no more than 15 seconds. A judge ticks off each defendant’s bail amount — often according to a predetermined bail schedule — asks if he or she is a U.S. citizen, and sends them off to jail. There’s no discussion of the person’s likelihood of returning to court or ability to pay the sum, or of the facts of the crime allegedly committed,” the Tribune explained.
The viral video of the attack appears to show Shuffield holding a gun in one hand as he slaps away Lee’s cellphone. She was reportedly attempting to call 911. Lee responds to his aggression by shoving him away. He retaliates by punching her multiple times.
Here’s a video clip that contains graphic content.
“We have to stand in solidarity because too many times, as people of color, we don’t have any wins,” community activist Olinka Green told the Dallas Morning News. “We are going to let this sister know that we are going to stand in solidarity with her.”