Texas whopper: $4 billion bond set for man in murder case

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) - They say everything is bigger in Texas. It's now safe to say that applies to bail.

Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown set Antonio Marquis Willis' bond last week at a whopping $4 billion in the Dec. 22 killing of another man at a home in Killeen, about 55 miles north of Austin.

County sheriff's Deputy Chief Chuck Cox said he's never heard of such a high bond, the Temple Daily Telegram reported. The highest amount he had previously seen was $1 million.

Willis' lawyer, Billy Ray Hall Jr., said he's confident the amount will be lowered when Hall makes the request to a state district judge. Hall said he wasn't certain it would be lowered to the point where Willis could afford to post the amount and leave jail until his next court hearing.

Another lawyer, Michael White, said bond is designed to protect the public and ensure a defendant appears in court. It's not meant to be a punitive measure, he said.

"This justice of the peace is abusing the bail process in an attempt to make a name for herself, as opposed to setting a reasonable and affordable bond as required by law," White said. "It makes a mockery of the process and a fool of her."

Lawyer Jeff Parker said the $4 billion bond could be challenged as unconstitutional. The Constitution's Eighth Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment and specifically refers to protections against excessive bail or fines.

The Associated Press left a message at Brown's office Thursday asking why she set such an expensive bond. She was elected to her position in November.

Willis, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Donte Samuels.

Willis' bond far exceeds the $3 billion amount set for New York real estate heir Robert Durst before an appeals court in 2004 determined it was unconstitutionally excessive and it was lowered to $450,000. At the time, Durst had recently been acquitted of killing his neighbor while living in Texas. He was being held on related charges.