The judge who released a former Long Beach police officer on bond without talking to police officials had been publicly reprimanded in 2013 by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The high court reprimand against Hancock County Justice Court Judge Tommy Carver was in February 2013 after the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance first recommended he be suspended for 30 days without pay and publicly reprimanded for fixing tickets.
The high court decided Carver’s misconduct did not rise to the level that a suspension was needed but agreed to order a public reprimand for the judge before a Hancock County jury.
Carver on Thursday set a $50,000 bond over the phone for former Long Beach police officer Cassie Barker on a charge of manslaughter in the Sept. 30 death of her daughter, Cheyenne Hyer, 3. Barker is accused of leaving her daughter in a car seat in the back of a patrol car while she was visiting with one of her then-supervisors, Sgt. Clark Ladner, at his home on CC Road in Kiln.
When Barker returned to the car more than four hours later, Cheyenne was unresponsive. The child died a short time later at Hancock Medical Center.
Both police officers were fired Tuesday night.
Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam and his chief investigator, Glenn Grannan, have expressed outrage that Carver set such a low bond for the former policewoman without first contacting them for input. They say Barker is a flight risk and a higher bond should have been set.
Barker surrendered Thursday, but did not have to go through an initial court appearance. Instead, she was booked on the charge and released within an hour. The judge, who was away attending a judicial conference, had set the bond after talking on the phone with Barker’s attorney, Donald Rafferty.
Carver also did not place any travel restrictions on Barker while she is out of jail on bond. Sheriff’s officials have information that Barker was out of state as recently as Thursday, when Adam issued a warning that anyone helping Barker would face charges if she did not surrender.
“She could be in Mexico for all we know,” Grannan said Thursday.
After Carver set a $50,000 bond for Barker, readers lit up Facebook with comments denouncing the low bond.
Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker said the bond was handled in Justice Court.
“We were not involved or consulted with the setting of the bond in this matter,” Parker said.
Carver could not reached for comment Friday.
A judge’s reprimand
The state Supreme Court admonished Carver in February 2013 after he dismissed five citations for marine violations without providing prosecutors a hearing. The commission said Carver falsified court documents by saying the state Department of Marine Resources officers who wrote the citations didn’t appear in court when they did.
The five tickets, including a charge of oystering without a captain’s or dredging license, oystering in prohibited areas, possession of illegal oysters and other offenses, were filed against Steven Kent Roache in December 2010.
Sometime before the court date, Roche and his brother-in-law, Frank B. Klein, a nephew of former Hancock County Justice Court Judge Lee B. Klein, went to Carver’s home and met with the judge about the charges. Frank Klein had known Carver all his life and had played sports with him, records show.
Carver never reported the conversation to the county prosecutor or the marine officers, though Roche, Klein and the judge said there were no improper conversations.
A trial date was set for May 10, 2011, but Roche didn’t show. Carver told the officers it was because Roche was related to a former Hancock County justice court judge and the trial would be reset for July 12, 2011. When the officers showed up for the new trial date, they learned the judge had already dismissed all the charges without a hearing with the prosecutor.
The longtime incumbent judge maintained Roche did go to court in May 2011, pleaded not guilty and the judge dismissed the charges because the marine officers didn’t show.
Carver appealed a decision by the Commission on Judicial Performance that had called for his 30-day suspension without pay, public reprimand and recommendation to charge him $2,022 in court costs.
The high court upheld the public reprimand against him.