An accused double murderer was released on bond this week, about seven months after two Baton Rouge chefs were gunned down in a neighborhood off Plank Road, killed by bullets likely meant for someone else.
Cody Hypolite was sitting on his front porch with his friend Jermaine Jarvis when the shooting occurred the night of July 15. A woman was also injured in the gunfire. Baton Rouge police believe all three were unintended victims, though officials declined to disclose a possible motive or release information about the intended target.
Now Hypolite's family is questioning why the alleged shooter should be allowed to buy his freedom despite a history of violence.
Dedric White, 26, was arrested in August on first-degree murder and other counts after detectives obtained video evidence and matched ballistics from the scene to one of White's guns. He was initially held without bail, which is standard procedure for someone accused of first-degree murder, a capital offense that allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
But when prosecutors took the case to a grand jury, the panel chose to indict White on second-degree murder instead.
It was a common occurrence: two good friends chatting on the front porch.
That lesser charge prompted the judge to reconsider whether White should continue being held without bail. 19th Judicial District Judge Tarvald Smith ultimately set bail at $500,000, which is relatively high compared to other second-degree murder cases. That decision came Dec. 3, one day after the grand jury handed down its indictment, court records show.
Smith did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
On Thursday, White paid the roughly 10% required to hire a bail bondsman and was released. The judge imposed several conditions, including a daily curfew and GPS ankle monitor.
Just days before he was arrested on the murder counts, White had posted $80,000 bond in a separate case involving guns and drugs that officers say they found in his house during the homicide investigation. He also faces a domestic abuse battery charge stemming from an incident in April, court records show.
White's criminal record includes a 2015 manslaughter conviction for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. He was accused in that case of shooting a teenage girl in the neck after she refused to have sex with him. She died months later from complications.
White was also one of numerous people arrested last fall when police received a complaint about a group waving assault rifles while filming a rap video on Pampas Street, which is also off Plank Road not far from where the July 15 shooting occurred. A social media account, which has since been taken down, showed White brandishing firearms and rapping about gun violence and going to jail.
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Hypolite's sister, Brittney Johnson, said she believes White's record should have been enough to keep him in jail awaiting trial in the double murder.
"Y'all just letting a murderer out on the streets to kill again. This is crazy," she said. "If you have money in the state of Louisiana, that's a get out of jail free card no matter how many people you've killed — innocent people at that."
Not long after her brother's murder, Johnson enrolled at Southern University where she plans to study forensic science. Her ultimate goal is to help improve Louisiana's criminal justice system, and pursue justice for families like hers. She said the system targets poor people for minor crimes while truly dangerous individuals are allowed to buy their freedom.
The cash bail system itself has received widespread criticism for that reason, both in Louisiana and across the country.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said the local system has room for improvement, though he noted that judges inevitably find themselves in a tough spot because defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
"The cash bail system does have limitations when we're talking about protecting the public. Ultimately, the question of public safety cannot and should not be answered solely with a monetary value," Moore said. "Many cases can illustrate this point."