By JESSIE HORTON
with RUSSELL HUFFMAN, AMANDA KIMBLE contributing
ERATH COUNTY (February 19, 2016) – When you stab a man nine times and claim it was self defense, you better hire a good lawyer. And that’s just what the father of Benjamin Shaw did this week, bringing on high-profile attorney Jose Baez, who rose to fame by successfully defending Casey Anthony in Florida against charges of murdering her infant daughter.
Shaw has been charged with second-degree murder in the case, which has grabbed the attention of many Erath County residents who are close to the victim’s family. Baez made his first appearance in a Louisiana high court this week in an attempt to have Shaw’s bond reduced from the original $750,000 to $100,000. However, that was not meant to be as Judge Michael Craig said he’d never once set a murder bond at $100,000 and he wasn’t going to start with this case – lowering the bond instead to $500,000.
During the hearing, Baez put Shaw’s father on the stand who testified how financially hard, as well as emotionally hard, this incident has been on his family. He went on to testify that he had to sell a commercial business property, take out a mortgage on his home, and asked for money from family and friends to help fund his son’s defense.
However, Shaw’s family wasn’t the only ones in the courtroom who have suffered loss.
Shaw, 21, is accused of stabbing Lingleville grad, Bossier City resident and current airman at Barksdale Air Force Base, 34-year-old Zechariah Casagranda to death. When the incident occurred, Shaw, whose family is from Maine, was attending Central Texas College as a computer sciences major and reportedly was visiting the area Bossier City, Louisiana, for the weekend.
During the four-hour hearing, numerous witnesses testified about the night at Bossier City’s Rockin’ Rodeo club. While all the stories have similar components, court officials said not one story was the same. However, what appears to be known is that a verbal argument lead to a bigger incident outside the bar at approximately 2 a.m.
Witnesses said the verbal argument spilled into the parking lot of the bar as it was closing for the night and turned physical once outside. Witnesses gave varying reports of what happened to cause the fight or who instigated it, but all agreed the stabbing ended it.
According to Bossier City Violent Crimes officials, Casagranda was stabbed eight times in the torso and then once in the neck, which caused his death. Bossier City Violent Crimes Detective Michael Hardesty testified that surveillance video has just been received but not year viewed. He stressed on the stand that the case was very much “still ongoing at this time.”
While Baez and the rest of Shaw’s defense team argued during the hearing that Shaw was acting only in self-defense when he repeatedly stabbed the airman to death, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Jacobs says that simply isn’t the case.
“We have a very strong case,” Jacobs told Louisiana reporters after the hearing. “I understand, like most violent crimes, it appears the defendant is going to attempt to mount a self-defense case. I believe that once the jury hears all the facts and the evidence, it will be obvious this is not a case where self-defense is an applicable defense.”
After lowering the bond, Craig explained that if Shaw makes bond, he will be allowed to return to Naples, Maine with his father on the condition he enter into a pretrial program through the Bossier Parish Sheriff or Louisiana State Probation and Parole Department. He will be required to return to Louisiana for trial.
“We are happy the judge reduced the bond,” Baez told reporters after the hearing. “We’ll see if the family can make the bond. I certainly don’t anticipate any issues whatsoever.”
Casagranda’s family said while they are disappointed the judge lowered Shaw’s bond at all, they are confident that the facts of the case will remain strong and hold true in court despite what the defense is planning.
“We are very happy the judge only reduced the bond to $500,000,” said Kelly Maddox, Casagranda’s mother. “We felt this was an adequate bond and if he does try to run or doesn’t return for the trial as requested, the State of Louisiana will go after him.”
The next step will be presenting the case to a grand jury who will decide whether or not to indict Shaw for second-degree murder of Casagranda.