Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Defense attorney Dwight Thomas argues a point in Clayton County Magistrate Court as his associate, Hannah Ward, listens.
Clayton County Chief Magistrate Daphne Walker said Thursday that an inmate's medical burden to taxpayers is not a legal basis on which to decide a non-cash bond for his release for private care.
"The court is not insensitive to this issue," said Walker. "The law requires us to pay his medical bills. I can't allow that to be the only basis on which we allow bond."
Walker added that the Clayton County Sheriff's Office has not indicated a financial issue with continuing to pay for long-term, rehabilitative therapy care for Andre Shiver, charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault.
Shiver, 19, was shot in the head Dec. 21, during an alleged home invasion in Jonesboro. The occupants of the house face federal charges after police found several credit card processing work stations, safes, jewelry, several luxury cars and about $200,000 in cash, during the investigation into the shooting.
Defense attorney Dwight Thomas said Shiver suffered a traumatic brain injury requiring expensive rehabilitation therapy, and resulting in his inability to participate in his case. Associate Magistrate Betrice Scott has set a $20,000 bond, but Thomas wants Shiver's parents to be able to get him released on their signatures. He said it would be a burden on them to post bond, and then handle the co-pays that will come with private insurance paying 80 percent of their son’s medical bills.
"If he does make bond, and starts getting treatment under private insurance, his parents will be responsible for 20 percent of those bills," said Thomas outside of court. "They just don't have the money [to do both]."
As long as Shiver remains in custody, Clayton County taxpayers are on the hook for his medical treatment, no matter how extensive or long-term. Thomas argued in court that Shiver should be released on the no-cash bond, so private insurance can pick up the tab.
"He has no memory, he does not know his own name," said Thomas. "He is not mentally present."
Shiver's parents attended the hearing, but did not address the court. Shiver was brought over to the jail from the Southern Crescent Traumatic Brain Center, but was not brought into the courtroom.
Shiver's preliminary hearing has been continued indefinitely because of his mental condition. Thomas asked for a mental evaluation and has also filed his intent to raise a defense of insanity or mental illness. Once he makes bond, Shiver is not entitled to a preliminary hearing. The next step in the process would be presenting the charges to a grand jury for possible indictment.
Thomas then raised the issue of getting Shiver transferred from the brain center to either, Emory, or the Shepherd Center, to begin long-term rehabilitative therapy.
"If there is a good-faith basis for transfer, I have no problem ordering the sheriff's office to transfer," said Walker. "So far as it's supported by medical documents. It's not uncommon, we do it on a regular basis."
In his court filings, Thomas said Shiver's medical bills could easily reach $1 million. Walker told him, Thursday, that the cost is not a legal consideration.
"I've done all the research I can, and I can't find a case out there that says a defendant can be released for medical bills," she said. "The concern for medical bills is the sheriff's concern. He can tell the district attorney if there is a financial issue."
Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green said he does not oppose bond.