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Highlights of the Sentencing Hearing in Andre Bonner’s Zodiac Murder Case

Andre Bonner

By Dave Oedel

After Andre Bonner, 32, was convicted on May 2, 2015 by a jury in Bibb County, Georgia, of murder and other charges for the 2013 killing at Macon’s Zodiac Lounge of Jamonni Bland, 17, Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms sentenced Bonner on May 6, 2015 to life without the possibility of parole. Then Simms tacked on 15 years for gang-affiliated charges, plus 5 more for gun possession by a felon. The extra time was largely an idle gesture in Bonner’s case, but was apparently intended to make a meaningful point to those claiming affiliation with the Westside Mafia.

I attended the sentencing hearing, and it was interesting in several ways.

First, there was little to nothing offered in the way of testimonials on behalf either of the victim, Bland, or the defendant, Bonner. Both of them seem to have been largely adrift in their communities.

After hammering the powerful evidence on the basic murder charges, prosecutor Sandra Matson … Continue Reading

Parenting and Policing Problems Behind the Zodiac Lounge Conviction

Andre Bonner

 

By Dave Oedel

After a carefully, professionally conducted week-long trial in Bibb County Superior Court by both prosecution and defense counsel, Andre Maurice Bonner, whose mug shot accompanies this article, was convicted on May 1, 2015 of murder and gang-related charges in the death of Jamonni Bland, 17. Bland suffered four gunshots to the back, chest and knee during the wee hours of July 5, 2013, and died on the cement floor of the underground parking deck adjacent to the Zodiac Lounge, now Icon, near the corner of Walnut and Broadway in downtown Macon.

Parking garage where Jamonni Bland was shot dead on July 5, 2013 at 3:30 a.m. in Macon, Georgia .  Entrance to the nightclub is on the right, around the corner from the "Open" sign.

Parking garage where Jamonni Bland was shot dead on July 5, 2013 at 3:30 a.m. in Macon, Georgia . Entrance to the nightclub is on the right, around the corner from the “Open” sign.

Based on normal legal standards, Bonner’s basic murder conviction should be unshakeable on appeal, and appeal on that basic conviction is therefore doubtful. Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, by Bibb Superior Court Judge Howard Simms.  Gang-related enhancements, more legally questionable, were also found by the jury.

It was toward the end of a long night of July 4th revelry around Macon that things began to get dicey … Continue Reading

What the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision Might Mean for Georgia and Similar States with State Constitutions Banning Same-Sex Marriage

(FILES)US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts poses for the Supreme Court class photo 03 March 2006 at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court ruled 25 June, 2007 in favor of a school that suspended a student for brandishing a banner proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," in one of the more bizarre recent free-speech cases. The high-school pupil, Joseph Frederick, had argued that the school principal had infringed his constitutional right to free speech by suspending him in January 2002 over his apparently pro-cannabis message. But in a five-three decision, the Supreme Court concluded that the school officials in this case did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending the student responsible for it," the ruling written by chief justice John Roberts said.       AFP PHOTO/Paul J. RICHARDS/FILES (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: PJR07

 

By Dave Oedel

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this past Tuesday, April 28, 2015, on two interrelated questions involving the federal constitutionality of state-based same-sex marriages bans in states like Georgia. The Court’s decision, expected by late June, is likely to have an impact on Georgia’s law and those of similarly-situated states. But what impact?

A couple of probable swing voters in the case, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, early on in the oral argument Tuesday signaled that they were doubtful about using the courts to redefine the definition of marriage itself, something that they suggested has been assumed for millennia.

But that didn’t stop the Chief from posing this hypothetical, … Continue Reading

Why RFRA Fizzled in Georgia

Georgia's capitol building -- the gold dome  that you can see clearly from the I-75/I85 connector in downtown Atlanta.

By Dave Oedel

The most controversial bill that got killed in the last days of Georgia’s General Assembly ending April 2, 2015 was Georgia’s proposed version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, S.B. 129, that had been passed by Georgia’s Senate but was languishing in the House. After Indiana enacted a similar bill in March and immediately suffered withering scorn from the likes of Apple’s gay CEO Tim Cook, Georgia’s RFRA died.

Though its sponsors vow that it will return in 2016, it seems unlikely to gain any more traction then, as it had little practical reason for passage to begin with, and its core constituency seems more riveted on matters like same-sex marriage.  The vigor with which Georgia’s RFRA was opposed by gay rights advocates, while comparatively strong as a media matter, was also more symbolic than substantive, in keeping with the largely symbolic character of the proposed law.

With the whole controversy appearing to be more of a media storm without much practical significance, yet with real possible state reputational damage looming, Governor Nathan Deal with his leadership team guided the bill to a quiet death. … Continue Reading

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