Wayne County judge who granted bond to alleged killer of Detroit cop draws more criticism

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — A national police organization is the latest group to speak out against a Wayne County judge's decision to grant bond to a man charged with killing an off-duty Detroit police officer in 2019.

The National Association of Police Organizations sent a letter Wednesday to Timothy Kenny, chief judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court, noting its "extreme dismay" with circuit Judge Lawrence Talon's decision.

Talon on April 1 set Eddie Ray-Jr. Johnson's bond at $100,000/10% and ordered him placed under house arrest and to wear a GPS tether should he post bond.

Eddie Johnson

Johnson, 37, paid the $10,000 and is under tether supervision awaiting trial. He had been held without bail since June 2019.

On June 2, 2019, officer Elaine Williams, 34, died after being shot five times at the Garden City home she shared with Johnson. Johnson was arrested later that month.

Williams was a mother of two and a 14-year Detroit Police Department veteran who worked in the Major Crimes Section. 

Talon in an email Thursday declined to comment, writing: "Because this is a pending case, I cannot discuss it at this time. It would not be fair to those involved."

While the police and media accounts describe Johnson's case as a compassionate release over a medical matter, his attorney, Raymond Burkett, said the bond decision owed more to fair trial issues.

Burkett said his motion asking for bond focused on the "unfair" treatment Johnson has received throughout the case, including Talon reinstating a first-degree murder charge that had been tossed at his preliminary hearing and lack of access to needed medical treatments at Wayne County Jail.

He declined to say what Johnson's medical issue is.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig speaks during a news conference about the bond that was given to the suspect charged in the homicide of DPD Sgt. Elaine Williams in 2019 on Monday, April 5, 2021 at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.

As for the letter, the press conferences and the public statements, Burkett said "This is killing us in terms of having a fair trial. It's going to be a tough time getting a fair jury pool."

2019:Off-duty Detroit cop killed in 'domestic' incident at Garden City home

Burkett said the defense will show both Williams and Johnson were shot with Williams' service weapon. He describes the violence that day as mutual, not murder. 

One of the association's executive officers is Mark Young of the Detroit Police Lieutenants & Sergeants Association, whose name appears on the letter.

"Medical compassionate release is not intended for someone who committed such a heinous and violent crime," the association's letter reads. "It is an affront to Sgt. Williams’ family, her fellow officers of the Detroit Police Department, and the citizens of Detroit that such a violent criminal is being allowed back into the community on compassionate release.

2019:Garden City man charged in fatal shooting of Detroit cop

"We strongly question the reasons behind Judge Talon’s decision to grant an individual charged with the murder of a law enforcement officer in an act of domestic violence compassionate release, especially on such a low bond," the letter continues. "He must be held accountable for it."

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on Monday called the bond "inappropriate for a first-degree murder case," and said her office would appeal.

Talon made the decision that Johnson face trial on a charge of first-degree murder, the prosecutor's office noted.

At a Sept. 5, 2019 preliminary examination in Garden City's 21st District Court, before district Judge Richard Hammer, the first-degree murder charge was dismissed and replaced with a second-degree murder charge, court records show. 

That November, the prosecutor's office appealed and Talon reinstated the first-degree murder charge.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig has condemned Talon's decision to allow bond. On Monday he held a press conference at police headquarters alongside Williams' family.

Williams' sister, Keisha Kemble, said the family is "horrified by the judge's decision."

"Our hearts are forever broken, and this decision has opened up a wound that hasn't healed," Kemble added.

Craig said someone facing the charges Johnson is should be jailed, regardless of their medical issues.

"Whatever the reasons were, if that individual needed to be released for some higher-level care, that should be done — as long as he's taken right back to jail," Craig said Monday.

Monday:Slain cop's sister 'horrified' at accused killer's release on bond

Kenny did not immediately respond to requests for comment.