Jacques Smith was known as a violent man. The criminal justice system in Dallas County had his long record of arrests and pleas stemming from violent acts. His background demonstrated his capacity to hurt others.
But despite yet another arrest — for beating his ex-girlfriend Abbaney Matts — he wasn’t kept behind bars. And earlier this week he allegedly shot and killed her and her sister, Deja Matts, and wounded Abbaney’s 2-year-old son.
So why was Jacques Smith free on a $15,000 bond that likely saw him post as little as $1,500 to walk out of Dallas County jail and, according to the charges against him, drive to his Deja Matts’ dorm room at Texas A&M Commerce University?
Let’s review Smith’s history of crime to the point of his release. And let’s ask how this man was free to commit the murders law enforcement says he committed. We don’t know. We don’t have the answer yet. We need the answer.
In April 2016, Smith took part in a violent plot to rob a woman described in police records as his friend. Smith was “hanging out” with two women at a Mesquite apartment when a juvenile and a man in a mask knocked on the door and forced their way in. Smith opened the door. He appeared calm throughout while the assailants forced the women to withdraw money from an ATM. He was calm still when one of the women was put in a closet as a hostage and another was forced to withdraw $18,000 from a Chase bank.
Smith pleaded guilty shortly thereafter to being in on the robbery. The charge was reduced and he got five years’ deferred adjudication. His first second chance.
In January 2018, Smith was one of four men who walked into a Subway shop in Duncanville. They jumped over the counter, and Smith stuck a pistol in the face of the man tending the store. After the robbery, police rounded up all four. Smith got five years of community supervision that December, telling the judge he hoped to join the military. His second second chance.
On Jan. 27 of this year, Smith was arrested in Garland on a charge that he had beaten Matts. She told police he hit her with a lamp and frying pan and threatened her with a knife before fleeing. He was arrested at a traffic stop and sent back to a familiar place, the Dallas County jail.
The court granted Smith release on a $15,000 bond, a surety bond that requires only a 10% payment to a bail bonds company for release, according to law enforcement officials. His third second chance.
From there, according to authorities, Smith killed the Matts sisters. (The investigation into that killing also led police to allege he had committed murder in Denton in December.) Everything in his history pointed to Smith as a dangerous and violent person. But in Dallas County, he walked out of jail.
Smith is far from the first violent criminal we have written about in recent months who has walked out of jail on low bond only to be arrested again.
His arrest highlights a problem that our criminal justice system needs to address. If police arrest a criminal defendant with a history of violence, how can that defendant quickly end up back on the streets?
That’s a question that needs to be answered.
Correction 2:08 p.m. Feb.6: This editorial was corrected to note that the site of the killings was Deja Matts’ dorm room and that Abbaney Matts was Smith’s ex-girlfriend.
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