Lawyer challenges local court’s usage of Aniah’s Law

Published 7:30 am Monday, June 19, 2023

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A lawyer for a defendant in a Covington County murder case is challenging the usage of Aniah’s Law by court officials, citing the defendant’s bond was revoked after bail was already posted.

Damien LaShawn Beasley, 17, was arrested in April 2021 and charged with the murder of Layla Watson who was killed by a gunshot wound on April 6. After his arrest, Beasley was released on a $1 million bond.

In June 2022, a motion was filed for bond revocation as it was alleged he had left the state without permission. An arrest warrant was issued for Beasley and a bond hearing was set for June 21, for which he did not appear. On June 22, Beasley did appear at the Covington County Courthouse where he was taken into custody and the bond revocation hearing took place shortly after, seeing his bond increased from $1 million to $1.05 million. He was re-indicted earlier this year and denied bond under Aniah’s Law.

Aniah’s Law is a constitutional amendment that the Alabama Legislature passed in 2021 and state voters approved in November. Prior to passage, judges could only deny bond to individuals charged with capital murder. Aniah’s Law expanded that to include those charged with other violent crimes including kidnapping, first-degree rape, sodomy, arson, robbery, domestic violence and aggravated child abuse.

Beasley’s attorney, A. Riley Powell IV, is challenging the application of Aniah’s Law to his client’s case, stating there was no reason to re-indict Beasley other than to apply Aniah’s Law so that his client could be held without bond. He also states Aniah’s Law was passed 19 months after his client was initially charged.

Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell III declined comment, citing ongoing litigation.