— By CHRISTIN COYNE
In a hearing Wednesday morning, 415th District Judge Graham Quisenberry set capital murder suspect Jacob “Jake” Ryan Evans’ bond at $750,000 and rejected a request by Evans’ attorneys to have the capital murder charge against Evans dropped because of punishment constitutionality issues.
Accused in the October shooting deaths of his mother, 48-year-old Jami Evans, and his sister, 15-year-old Mallory Evans, 17-year-old Jake Evans was indicted last month on one count of capital murder, which currently carries a sentence of death or life in prison without parole under state law, and two counts of murder, which carry a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison.
Fort Worth attorney Larry Moore and Weatherford attorney Mac Smith, court-appointed counsel for Evans, filed an application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus earlier in the week, claiming the state is unlawfully detaining Evans on the capital murder charge.
Evans’ attorneys were in court Wednesday requesting that the state not be allowed to hold Evans for the capital murder charge because there is no sentence for capital murder in state law that is constitutional for those of Evans’ age.
Texas law currently provides two penalties for capital murder - death or life imprisonment without parole.
Because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty for those under 18 years old at the time of the offense is unconstitutional and a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a defendant under the age of 18 at the time of the offense is unconstitutional, Moore argued that the state could not pursue a charge under which there is no lawful sentence.
Assistant district attorneys Edward Lewallen and Robert DuBoise argued that the trial court does not have a right to address the issue in a pretrial hearing and that the punishment issue does not affect whether they could obtain a conviction on the charge.
The state’s attorneys also noted that proposed Senate Bill 187 would address the sentencing issue if passed by the current Texas Legislature.
“We are many, many months down the road from bringing this to trial,” Lewallen said.
The proposed bill would modify state law to provide a sentence of life imprisonment for those convicted of capital murder who committed the offense while younger than 18 years.
However, Moore argued that any change in the law approved by state lawmakers could not be applied ex post facto, or retroactively, to Evans’ case.
Moore said he will be filing an expedited appeal of Quisenberry’s decision with the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth this week.
Evans’s father, Darryl Evans, also took the stand briefly, testifying that his son had no income or money of his own and that he did not plan to post the bond needed to get his son out of jail pending trial.
The district attorney’s office requested that the bond be set no lower than $750,000 due to concern for public safety, which Quisenberry granted, setting bond at that amount.
Though Evans initially asked not to see family after being taken into custody, Moore reported that Evans was doing OK and had been communicating and receiving visits from family members.