CLARK COUNTY, WA (KPTV) - It was just before Thanksgiving when Tiffany Hill was shot and killed in a Vancouver school parking lot by her estranged husband, Keland Hill, who then turned the gun on himself.
That was Nov. 26; On Nov. 15, Keland Hill was in court for a bail hearing. He’d been arrested more than once in prior weeks for domestic violence and violating a no-contact order.
Prosecutors asked Clark County Judge John Fairgrieve to set Hill’s bail at $2 million dollars because they believed he would kill his wife if he was released.
Judge Fairgrieve agreed that he posed a danger and did increase his bail from $75,000 to $250,000, but not the $2 million prosecutors were hoping for.
As we now know, Hill managed to post bail and a few days later the deadly shooting took place.
“All decisions that I make have potential consequences,” Fairgrieve said. “Some decisions I make have relatively small consequences, other ones, such as a bail decision, potentially have huge consequences, and I will tell you that it weighs on me every day.”
Fairgrieve can’t talk about the specifics of this case because it’s still under investigation, but he did explain in general terms how judges make decisions like this.
He says the process is guided by rules from the state Supreme Court. He says judges have to consider a number of factors, including the crime the person is in jail for, their criminal history, and the likelihood to re-offend on release or fail to appear for future court dates.
While Fairgrieve says there’s no guidance on the specific amount of money to set, judges do have to take into account the person’s financial situation.
Generally, he says the system is set up with a presumption of release, except in cases where there’s a danger to the community or a likelihood someone will skip out on future court appearances.
Fairgrieve said in those cases, he sets bail at an amount he believes will keep that person in jail – but he also said judges don’t always have a full picture of a person’s financial resources.
“You may set an amount of bail at a particular time thinking that a particular criminal defendant is probably not going to make that bail, and they may have other resources you weren’t aware of, they may have friends or family members willing to help them out and end up posting that bail,” Fairgrieve said.
In this case, we don’t know how Keland Hill came up with the money to post bail. He likely would have needed $25,000 – or 10% of the $250,000 figure set by the judge.
Fairgrieve said he, and others on the bench, work very hard to make the best decisions they can at any given time, and in Clark County, decisions like this can be made as many as 50 times a day depending on how many defendants appear in court. It’s not a responsibility he takes lightly.
“You set bail based on the factors the Supreme Court wants you to consider, but there’s always some degree of risk, and I think that weighs on all judges who set bail. It certainly weighs on me,” Fairgrieve said. “And you’re always concerned that if a particular criminal defendant makes bail, that they might go out and commit a violent crime, and it’s, frankly, for judges, the worst-case scenario.”
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