64 year old Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds of McMinnville may have to serve at least two more years in prison before being eligible for another parole hearing.
Following a hearing Thursday, one member of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Yusuf Hakeem voted to deny parole for Bounds due to the seriousness of the offense in the 1981 fatal shooting of 27 year old Sherman Wright of DeKalb County. If at least three other members of the board vote to concur with Hakeem, Bounds will not be eligible for parole again until 2013
(PLAY THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE THE ENTIRE HEARING FOR J.B. BOUNDS THURSDAY AT THE PRISON IN PIKEVILLE)
The hearing was held at the Southeast Regional Correctional Facility in Pikeville where Bounds is incarcerated.
Bounds is serving a life sentence for the first degree premeditated killing of Wright, who was shot once in the head just outside the Odyssey Arcade on West Broad Street, across from the Dairy Queen. The incident occurred on the afternoon of February 2nd, 1981, allegedly over a gambling debt. The game room no longer exists. The building now serves as the location for the Discount Tobacco Outlet. Had Wright survived, he would be turning 58 years old on Tuesday, October 25th
Bounds was found guilty of first degree murder by a DeKalb County Circuit Court Jury following a trial in October 1981 and he has been in prison since, having served 30 years and eight months.
He has been up for parole three times, in September 2002, August 2005, and October 2010 This was his fourth parole hearing.
Hakeem, a member of the parole board conducting the hearing, was not at the prison. He presided by video conference from his office in Chattanooga, hearing from Bounds, two members of his family and a friend, and two members of the Wright family. Representing the Wright family were Sherman Wright's mother, Louise Wright; sister, Brenda Cantrell; brother Kenny Wright and his wife Kathy; nephew Nick Wright; aunts, Ponzell Usrey and Lynda Luna; first cousin Katherine Pack, and first cousin Cynthia Rhody and her husband Myron Rhody. Only Brenda Cantrell and Cynthia Rhody spoke for the Wright family during the hearing.
Speaking on behalf of Bounds were his cousin Sondra Williams; niece Lisa Childers, and friend Anita Barrett. Among other Bounds family members present were his brother Billy Bounds and daughter Jessica Green.
In reading the record on Bounds, Hakeem noted that "as a juvenile we have no criminal activity listed on your part. As an adult, there was a misdemeanor for reckless operation of a motor vehicle. As a felony, no other items are listed."
Bounds is a high school graduate and he attended Martin College and MTSU. Prior to the shooting, Bounds occupations included accounting and office work, and he served as a night club manager and insurance file clerk.
While in prison, Hakeem mentioned that Bounds has been involved in various educational classes and occupations. "As far as program participation, he has been a teacher's aide, landscape gardener, in the HVAC refrigeration class, carpenter class, computer literacy class, and anger management class."
Bounds is considered a minimum level trustee and during the course of his incarceration he has been involved in two disciplinary issues, the last being in August, 1998 for possession of drugs.
According to his release plan, if Bounds were to be granted parole, he plans to live with his brother Billy Bounds in McMinnville, or in the alternative, stay with his daughter Jessica Green in McMinnville.
Hakeem said Bounds received three letters of support for his release on parole but there seven letters filed in opposition.
Bounds admitted to shooting Wright but he insisted that it was unintentional. In fact, Bounds said he did not expect to see Wright that day, but ran into him while at the game room, where he had stopped to see someone else. "He owed me some money (more than $2,000). We had several discussions about it over a period of time. I had seen him on Friday night. He had come to my place of business and told me that he was working on some things and that he would have some money in a day or two. On Monday, the day it happened, I was going to DeKalb County and I saw a friend of mine's vehicle at this business (Odyssey Arcade). I didn't know what kind of business it was. I pulled in behind this vehicle and stopped. I walked in. It just so happened it was a game room. Mr Wright was there. He was playing a game. I asked to speak to him. He said just a second. I said okay. I was talking to my friend there. I was just going to talk to him there (inside the building) but he started out the door. As we were going out the door there was a girl there that he knew (Mary Mabe). She said something to him and he stopped. I just went on outside the door and I waited for him. He came out and we started talking about this. I guess we lost our tempers or whatever and I took a swing at him. When I did he stepped back. I missed and he put his hands in his pockets. I knew he had carried a gun. I had a gun so I pulled my gun and he pulled his hands out (of his pocket). Of course, I was mad so I was going to hit him with my pistol and when I did he grabbed it. Whether he hit my hand or I pulled the trigger or whatever, anyway it discharged and it shot him and killed him. I left the scene and drove back to McMinnville. I called my lawyer and he came and got me and we immediately went to the Warren County Jail. I didn't try to flee or anything" said Bounds.
In making a plea for his release on parole, Bounds' cousin Sondra Williams said the family needs him back home. "Both families have suffered because of this one act and we can't go back and make amends for that. But we are asking for him to be released because he has done everything they have asked of him. We do have a plan for him to be with us and for us to give him emotional support if he is released. Jessica (Green) has grown up without her father. She now has two boys of her own. They need a grandfather because she is a single parent. His brother and sister-in-law could use some help because his brother has both legs amputated. So his living in the house with them is part of it. He can be of assistance as well as work and take care of them. He has transportation. He has some money that his mother has left him. He's got a place to live. There are no prior incidences of violence so he is not a threat to society," said Williams.
"I'd like the parole board to take into consideration that he is an old man now. He has a brother who really needs him at home, said Bounds' niece Lisa Childers."He has a daughter and grandsons. He's a father, grandfather, brother, uncle and we could really use him at home. Right now, I am the only one there helping my dad. Its really hard on me. I am a full time nursing student and I could really use the extra help at home with him and Jessica could always use the extra help with her boys. We have a plan for him to have at least a part time job when he comes home. He has a place to live. He is not going to be any kind of threat to society. We do really need him. I lost my grandmother last year after the parole board hearing. We really needed him at home for that. We would really like to have him at home for however many good days he has left. We don't know. None of us are promised tomorrow so I'd just like to ask you to take that into consideration," said Childers.
Anita Barrett, a family friend, said " He has always been a very easy going person. He has a lot of friends. As an adult his life changed going into a different avenue than my life and I didn't see him much. I was married and had my own family. But I always knew that no matter what was going on the Gerald Bounds that I know is still the same. He regrets very much that this happened. He regrets what the Wright family has had to go through but he never intended for it to end like it did. We just want him to have a chance to come back and prove that he can be the person that he is and to help with his brother who really needs him. His daughter and grandchildren really need him and we as his friends want to be there for him. We would support him emotionally and physically, anyway we could. I know exactly what happened during this time. J.B. told me. I know exactly how it happened. I would just like to say that I would trust him with my life. I would trust him with anybody's life. I think he has paid a big, big price for this one mistake and even though it was a terrible mistake I see no reason that this would ever happen again. I would please ask that the parole board take into consideration who he is now and let him come home," said Barrett.
Brenda Cantrell, sister of the late Sherman Wright, gave an emotional plea for Bounds being denied parole. "I understand that its been a long time. We don't forget that its been a long time. I'm sure Mr. Bounds feels like he's paid his debt to society. His family may need him. But we needed our brother also. There's only ten of us here today but a survey was run in our local newspaper a couple of weeks ago and from that survey was the question of whether or not the people of DeKalb County thought that Mr. Bounds should be let out of prison. The result of that survey was 83% no and 17% yes. So not only are we a small representation that Mr. Bounds should not be released but I feel like other people of the county are supportive of us and have the same sentiments that we have that he should not be let out. As a matter of fact, some of Sherman's friends have contacted members of the family to let us know that they would possibly have to move if Mr. Bounds was let out," said Cantrell.
Cynthia Rhody, a first cousin of Sherman Wright, added " I speak for the family that's not here this morning. I'm sure Mr. Bounds has done a lot of time but we don't get Sherman back no more. We have family reunions. We have Christmas at my aunt Louise's house every year and Sherman is not there. Aunt Louise buried her husband, Sherman's father, and her parents and Sherman wasn't there. He missed the birth of his nephews. He's missed the birth of several of our children. We miss him so everyday. Our loss is not gone. We don't wake up and say Sherman will be in this evening for lunch. That's not going to happen to us no more sir. We feel that Mr. Bounds should not be paroled," said Rhody.
Hakeem asked Bounds " What do you think your actions have had on the family of Mr. Wright"?
Bounds replied "I can just imagine its been difficult. I know for my own family its been terrible. I can only imagine what its been for them. I wish there was something I could say that would help in some way but I don't know what it would be," he said.
When asked how he has changed since being in prison, Bounds said "I've learned to have patience. I don't have the temper. I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned a lot about what I used to be. That's changed. I'm not the same person. My problem was anger. That's the reason I took an anger management class," he added.
"In a non restricted environment on the street, what would make us think that you would be in control and not intimidate people or do things illegal," asked Hakeem
"I don't know where this intimidation would come from," said Bounds. " I don't have anything against these people. I understand. I feel for these people. I don't know them and they don't know me. Why would I try to intimidate anybody. I'm an old guy for Christ's sake. I'd like to spend some time with my grand kids. I don't gamble anymore. I don't drink. I don't do any of that stuff anymore. That's not what I want to do. You can do that in here (prison) if you want to. None of my family do drugs. Most of them don't drink. They don't gamble. They don't do any of those things. That's the people I want to surround myself with," said Bounds
Hakeem later asked Bounds why he should be released on parole. "I've always told the truth about what I did, said Bounds. I've never denied my responsibility. I know it's a terrible thing. Thousands of times I've tried to figure out why? I wish if there was anyway I could have took that back a second later and I would have but once its done, its done. So I've tried to do my time. I've tried to do it right. I read a lot. I study things a lot. I've learned new things, crafts, computers, and whatever. I've tried to spend my time constructive. I've been here almost 31 years. I'm 64 years old. I'm committed to leaving here. All I want to do is enjoy my family and friends that I have. I have some very good support from friends that I have known for my entire life. I don't feel that there's anything that would keep me from doing things right and I don't think there's any future in me being here. I don't think that would serve any purpose. I don't know what else I could do to help myself. I feel like the time has come that somebody should put some trust in me,' said Bounds.
In announcing his vote, Hakeem said. 'You (Bounds) are incarcerated for first degree murder and the manner in which it has been described, I would consider it calculated in the manner in which it happened. The programs that you have been involved in, I think are good. The jobs that you've held are very good. But some of the things I would want to see as far as programs are concerned are programs like criminal thinking, thinking for a change. Programs that deal with the mind. Something that gives me great pause and great concern is your account of what took place, particularly when I compare that to the account that's in the appeals record. To me they're very different. Based on everything I can see and understand at this time Mr Bounds I can't vote today to parole you sir. Some of the things I think you need to do is (get in) the type of programs that deal with the mind. Though you have been here for a number of years, the Wright family has no contact, so to speak, with their loved one. When I asked about the impact on the families, I listened as you made comments but I did not hear any remorse on your part for what took place. Be mindful, I am only one vote and my colleagues may see it totally different. They may say you've met all the requirements, Its time for you to go. That vote will take place over the next three or four weeks when they review the files. So my vote today is not final. But my vote today is to decline you for two years for seriousness of the offense with programming as I suggested dealing with the mind. This will tell me that you are ready to move back into society and not be a threat to society," said Hakeem.
Bounds' file will now go to the other six members of the state board of pardons and paroles. They will review the case and cast their votes. The voting continues until there are four concurring votes (either to parole or to deny parole), which is what the law requires for a decision on this offense.
The factors board members consider in making parole decisions include the seriousness of the offense, the amount of time served, support and/or opposition to the parole, victim impact, any disciplinary issues the offender might have had while incarcerated, any programs the offender might have completed while incarcerated, etc.
It generally takes 3-4 weeks to get a final decision in any case.