Five-week wait for bond revocation not by choice

Law allowed accused felony DWI death defendant to bond out of second DWI
Dec. 18, 2013 @ 08:06 AM

A man accused of driving drunk while awaiting trial in a fatal drunken-driving case remained out of jail for five weeks after that arrest because of a legal loophole.

Jack Byron White, 57, was out of jail out on a $30,000 bond when he wrecked into a bridge Nov. 6 near his Cottrell Hill Road home in Lenoir and was charged with driving while impaired. Even getting behind the wheel violated the conditions of his release from jail, which also required that he not drink. After White was arrested, he appeared before a magistrate, who set the $3,000 bond that White posted the next day to get out of jail on the new DWI charge.

But his previous bond was not revoked until his next court date, which was Dec. 12.

According to North Carolina law, a judge can revoke an order of pretrial release, but a magistrate cannot.

Lenoir Police Chief Scott Brown said the restriction is a frustration to law enforcement.

"I would prefer that the process involved in situations like this be more simple," Brown said. "We have trained professionals in our criminal justice system who are fully capable of making the best calls under the circumstances at the time, yet far too often their hands, and ours, are tied."

District Attorney Jay Gaither said his office filed a motion to have the original bond revoked. "The matter was set on for hearing on the first available court date," he said.

When White showed up for his Dec. 12 court hearing, his old bond was revoked, and he was taken into custody by the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office and jailed on two bonds totalling $150,000. As of Tuesday, White was still listed as an inmate.

White is tentatively scheduled to stand trial March 13 on charges of felony death by vehicle and driving while impaired in the Nov. 12, 2012, wreck that killed Howard Roper, 92, of Seehorn Street in Lenoir. White was driving north on Hickory Boulevard around 2:30 p.m. in a 1994 Plymouth van when he drove across the median and struck a 1994 Chevrolet Blazer driven by Donald Lee Roper. Howard Roper was a passenger in the Blazer. Both Ropers were taken to Caldwell Memorial Hospital, where Howard Roper was pronounced dead. White was also taken to CMH with minor injuries.

Brown held out hope that White's case could lead to a change making it easier to revoke bond when a person violates the terms of his release.

"Obviously, knowing what we know now, we would all be better off if this defendant had never been released under any conditions," Brown said. "I don’t cast blame. I do, however, hope that lessons are learned that make us all better, both operationally and legislatively."