A 17-year-old Macon resident accused of shooting another teen in the head on Christmas Eve was released from jail on an invalid bond set by a Bibb County magistrate, according to a motion filed by District Attorney Greg Winters.
While magistrates may set bonds for defendants accused of certain crimes, Georgia law requires that a Superior Court judge determine bond amounts in specific situations such as when someone is accused of aggravated assault while already out on bond for a burglary charge.
In Zachery Dewayne Guyton’s case, Guyton was out on bond for a burglary charge when he was accused of shooting 18-year-old Quintavious Hutchings in the head at a home on Antioch Road on Saturday, according to Bibb County jail records.
Magistrate Cedric Leslie set a $2,950 bond on Nov. 14 for the burglary charge, and Guyton was released the same day, according to records from the jail and Bibb County Superior Court.
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When Guyton appeared Monday before Magistrate Bill Shurling on the new charges of aggravated assault and a gun charge stemming from Hutchings’ Christmas Eve shooting, Shurling issued a $2,500 bond on the gun charge and a $11,100 bond on the aggravated assault charge, according to jail records.
Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Winters said he was notified of the judge’s error Wednesday.
Winters then filed a motion requesting a hearing before a Superior Court judge to determine whether Shurling had the authority to set a bond, according to Bibb County Superior Court records. Winters said he will seek to have the bond revoked. He said Guyton will remain on bond until a Superior Court Judge reviews the bond.
Shurling admits he made an error in granting a bond on the aggravated assault charge.
“There’s no excuse. I don’t know how I could have missed it,” he said Thursday. “I’m looking for things like that.”
Shurling said he remembers asking the sheriff’s office for a copy of Guyton’s prior records, documents the sheriff’s office regularly provides magistrates for first appearance hearings.
But Shurling said he isn’t sure whether he saw documentation of Guyton’s burglary bond.
Looking back on Monday’s hearing, Shurling said he recalls considering whether Guyton would be a threat to others, show up for court appearances or threaten witnesses.
Absent Guyton being on bond for burglary, the judge would have had the authority to set or deny a bond. Guyton had no prior criminal convictions, he said.
Knowing that Hutchings, the shooting victim, was in the hospital in critical condition, Shurling chose to issue the highest bond allowable on the list of bonds used by magistrates for the past two years, he said.
Shurling said he became aware of the error when a clerk was entering data from the hearing into the Magistrate Court’s computer system. The clerk found that Guyton had two separate records due to differences in how his name was entered into the computer.
“I was devastated,” Shurling said. “I was shocked.”
After discovering the error, Shurling called Winters, he said.
“I’m pretty embarrassed about it,” Shurling said. “It won’t happen again.”
In the future, Bibb County magistrates will specifically ask whether a defendant was on bond at the time of an offense, he said.
Arjun Kapoor, Guyton’s attorney, said he would like time to research the law and respond to Winters’ motion.
“This involves his liberty,” Kapoor said of Guyton. “We don’t feel it should be handled as an administrative matter.”
Recalling the hearing, Kapoor said Shurling was aware that Guyton was on bond for the burglary charge.
Shurling said he doesn’t recall being aware of the earlier bond.
“In my conscious mind, if I knew that he was out on bond for burglary, I wouldn’t have set the (latest) bond,” Shurling said.
Hutchings was listed in critical condition at The Medical Center of Central Georgia following the Christmas Eve shooting, but a police news release issued Wednesday morning stated his condition had improved and that he was talking with investigators.
Citing privacy regulations, police would not release updated information about Hutchings’ medical condition Thursday, said Jami Gaudet, police spokeswoman.
A hospital spokeswoman did not release information about his condition.
Hutchings had at one time been on life support at the hospital after he was shot during an apparent armed robbery, according to a police report from earlier this week.
Police were called to Guyton’s mother’s Houston Avenue home early Wednesday morning after gunshots were fired at the house while Guyton and his brother were inside, according to Macon police. No one was injured.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.