OF JUDGMENT: 01/18/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. GEORGE M. MITCHELL JR.TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CHRISTOPHER EDWARD SMITH
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
JASON L. DAVIS
CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE AND McCARTY, JJ.
Although not personally served, a bail bondsman was held
liable for a defendant who skipped trial. The surety's
former agent was served in his stead. Because the Legislature
has expressly excluded this act as a proper form of service,
we reverse, render, and remand.
Weary of a world where suspects in a criminal case would be
detained for weeks or months without seeing a magistrate or
facing trial, an intrepid and innovative band of thinkers
created a guarantee of fair treatment. This is why the Eighth
Amendment to the federal Constitution prohibits excessive
bail. U.S. Const. amend. VIII.
As explained some years later, "[t]his traditional right
to freedom before conviction permits the unhampered
preparation of a defense, and serves to prevent the
infliction of punishment prior to conviction." Stack
v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 4 (1951). Bail was not just
quintessentially American but also vital to our system of
justice: "Unless this right to bail before trial is
preserved, the presumption of innocence, secured only after
centuries of struggle, would lose its meaning."
But bail literally comes at a price, so society developed
methods of paying for it. "The right to release before
trial is conditioned upon the accused's giving adequate
assurance that he will stand trial and submit to sentence if
found guilty." Id. "Like the ancient
practice of securing the oaths of responsible persons to
stand as sureties for the accused, the modern practice of
requiring a bail bond or the deposit of a sum of money
subject to forfeiture serves as additional assurance of the
presence of an accused." Id. at 5.
Which brings us to A-Absolute Bonding Company and a bond in
Attala County. Antonio Grant had been indicted for armed
robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Just as our system is supposed to work, the trial court
allowed Mr. Grant bail before trial. A-Absolute Bonds
guaranteed Mr. Grant would appear at trial via an appearance
bond for $30, 000. The company, owned and operated by Harold
Newell, had an agent named Taluna Hunt, and she wrote the
For reasons beyond the reach of this decision, the defendant
did not appear for trial. The trial court issued a bench
warrant for his arrest. The trial court also issued a
judgment nisi against his sureties, namely Newell and
Hunt. The trial court found that the $30, 000 bond was
forfeited; it also gave the duo ninety days to explain why
the judgment "should not be made final." This gave
the sureties a time period to cure the failure to appear.
By order of the trial court, the sureties were to be given
formal service of process of scire facias-the name for a
summons, or "to make known." See generally
Miss. Code Ann. § 99-5-25 (Rev. 2015) (determining that
"[t]he purpose of bail is to guarantee appearance and a
bail bond shall not be forfeited for any other reason"
and setting out the process outlined above). Service of
process is critical in this situation because "[i]f the
surety produces the defendant or provides to the court