The freedom of 66 year old Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds of McMinnville, who has been behind bars for 32 years in a 1981 DeKalb County murder, remains in question.
Two members of the Tennessee Board of Parole took opposite views Wednesday morning with one, Tim Gobble voting to deny parole for another year and the other, Patsy Bruce voting to parole him. As a result, more board members will have to vote in the coming weeks and whichever decision reaches 4 votes first will be the final verdict. Bruce and Gobble were the only parole board members present at the prison for Bounds' hearing Wednesday.
Bounds is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting 27 year old Sherman Wright of DeKalb County.
Wednesday's hearing was held at the Southeast Regional Correctional Facility in Pikeville where Bounds is incarcerated. WJLE was the only media present covering the hearing.
Bounds was convicted of first degree murder in the 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.
Bounds was tried by a DeKalb County Circuit Court Jury in October 1981 and he has been in prison since. He has been up for parole four times, in September 2002, August 2005, October 2010, and October 2011. This was his fifth parole hearing.
"It was a dispute over money," Bounds told the parole board members Wednesday. " It became confrontational and I shot him. I didn't intend to but I did. I'm responsible no matter what the circumstances are. I am the one who did it," he said.
Parole board members Bruce and Gobble heard Wednesday from Bounds’ daughter, Jessica Greer; a niece, Lisa Childress; and a life long friend Bobby Rigsby. Katherine Pack, a cousin of the victim spoke on behalf of the Sherman Wright family.
"I do not know my father as well as I want to," said Bounds' daughter Jessica Greer. " My children are missing out on him being their grandfather. I understand the other family has lost a lot. But so have we. I didn't have a father growing up. I'm just afraid that if he don't get out something may happen to him and I may never have that relationship with him. Keeping him here is not bringing Mr. Wright back. Sometimes we have to learn to forgive. Because when we stand before the Lord we have to have forgiveness in our hearts. I wasn't with my father for a very long time because he wasn't there for me. But I've learned to forgive. I've learned to accept him in my life. I love my father. He has been great in my life so far. I would love to be able to walk with him in the yard with my kids or when my son graduates high school, he would be able to watch him cross the stage. I really do think he has served his time," said Greer.
"I feel like he has paid his debt to society," said Bounds' niece, Lisa Childress. "The man that I've grown to know, I don't feel like he would have done anything like that on purpose. I feel like he should be given a chance to live outside of these walls. He (Bounds) has two grandchildren now and he is not getting to participate in raising them. They don't have a male figure in their lives. He would be an awesome role model for them I feel like," said Childress.
"I've known J.B all my life," said Ronnie Rigsby, a friend of Bounds. "We grew up together. We played ball together. I've been here just about every time (parole hearings). There is no way on earth they will ever make me believe that this guy did that (shooting) on purpose. He has always been a good friend. I just think that he has paid his dues. I think he should be given consideration at this time," said Rigsby.
Katherine Pack, a first cousin of the victim, spoke on behalf of the Wright family in opposition to Bounds' release. "Today I'm speaking for Sherman's mother, Mrs. Louise Wright and the rest of the Wright family," said Pack. It's kinda hard, especially for my aunt Louise to say the things she would like to say and I can't even express it because I know what an impact it's had on her life. But I can't even go there in my mind to losing a child. We understand that Mr. Bounds has been here for a long time. But we also understand that there are consequences to all our actions and that our actions sometimes don't just affect us. It affects everyone we love. All the people around us. He (Sherman Wright) was just 27 years old when his life was taken. He never knew some of his nieces and nephews. He didn't have children but he was a fun loving guy. He loved to fish. Loved to hunt. Loved to play sports That was cut short at a very early age. We, as a family are in opposition to Mr. Bounds' being released," said Pack.
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.
Bounds said when he saw Wright he asked to speak with him and they got into an argument. "He owed me some money. 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," said Bounds.
After leaving the scene, Bounds drove back to McMinnville, contacted his attorney and turned himself in at the Warren County Jail.
"Mr. Bounds, my vote today is to parole you," said Board member Bruce. " I will ask that you be tested for substance abuse and that you be referred to a social worker for transitional needs or for any referrals or treatment needed (as part of his parole conditions).
Board member Gobble took a different view. "Mr. Bounds, I've got some mixed feelings on this. I think you've got a good institutional record and I commend you on that. You have served a long time. I do agree with a previous board member (at the last parole hearing two years ago) who said at some point you probably will be paroled but I'm not prepared to do that today. I think you are probably a relatively low risk to re-offend due to your age but this was a very serious offense. A man lost his life at a very young age. That whole life before him was taken senselessly and needlessly because of your actions. I'm not prepared to vote to release you today. I am going to decline you and rehear your case in a year in October, 2014 and to consider it possibly then," said Gobble.
Bounds' file will now go to the other members of the Tennessee Board of Parole. 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 2-4 weeks to get a final decision