The 21-year-old Chester County man accused of killing a relative who allegedly raped another family member could have a chance this week to be freed from jail pending trial.
As the public continues to debate what some have called the death of “somebody who deserved killing,” some of the facts of the crime could be made public for the first time in a bail hearing.
Antwan Terrill White, 21, who has no criminal record and was employed at the time of the crime, has been in jail since his Aug. 8 arrest.
This week marks the first time Chester County has had a Circuit Court judge available to hear arguments from prosecutors and White’s lawyer about whether he should be released on bail pending a trial.
Prosecutor Chris Taylor and White’s lawyer, Arthur Gaston of Chester, said bail should be addressed this week in a hearing before Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith.
Michael Jermaine Terry, 39, was found dead on a rural road after being shot in the face and chest shortly after he allegedly attacked a 16-year-old girl.
White “absolutely maintains his innocence,” Gaston said, “and I do, too.”
Gaston described White as “a clean-cut fellow,” the father of a young child who worked at a tool distribution center before his arrest. White’s family also has said he is innocent.
Gaston declined to discuss the facts of the case.
The crime has sparked an outcry on both sides of the case, as legal experts and law enforcement officers have said the law is clear – no one can “take the law into their own hands.”
However, public sentiment seems to be solidly behind White, because Terry was a convicted felon accused of a heinous crime by the assault victim before he was killed.
The fact that the murder victim is an unsavory career criminal will have little or no bearing on whether the judge grants bail for White, said Miller Shealy, a Charleston School of Law professor and former federal prosecutor.
What will determine bail is whether Goldsmith determines White to be a flight risk or a danger to the community, Shealy said.
Because White did not flee between the time of Terry’s death and his arrest could show he is not a flight risk, Shealy said. White has no record and has a job, with community and family ties, which also will help.
“It seems likely,” Shealy said, “that the defendant’s lawyer would argue that, with him having no record and the rarified one-time circumstances of this event, that the defendant is not a danger to anyone else.”
Prosecutors have declined to say what evidence would link White to the killing. Police have said only that they have no other suspects and that a tip helped lead them to White.
In a hearing before a magistrate the day after White’s arrest, police presented no evidence. At a bail hearing, though, prosecutors might have to release some facts to the judge about why law enforcement believes White shot Terry, Shealy said.
“The facts of a case, especially a murder case, do have relevance in bond hearings,” he said.
Prosecutors might have to present some of the facts of the case to try to keep White in jail before a trial, said Kenneth W. Gaines, a professor at the University of South Carolina law school.
What happened leading up to the killing of Terry – the rape allegation itself – could come up in the hearing, Gaines said, as both sides argue whether White is a danger to anyone else.
The fact that the killing happened after the rape, but before law enforcement could investigate the assault, could be part of the prosecution’s argument against bail, Gaines said.
“The prosecution will probably contend that this person took matters into his own hands,” Gaines said. “Public sentiment is one thing, but the law is another.”