That's democracy in action. But its cost can be high.
That could be the case for 17-year-old Gary Lynn Oxendine of Pembroke.
At 2 a.m. on June 11, Oxendine was allegedly shot by 18-year-old Ricky Brandon Brayboy. Oxendine lived, but is paralyzed with little hope for a recovery.
Brayboy is accused of shooting three times into Oxendine's white, 1967 Mustang while it was parked at Jeco's Quick Stop. At the time, Brayboy was free on $50,000 bail while awaiting trial for the January 2002 shooting death of Vincent Homer Smith.
In an ironic twist, Oxendine was himself out on bail for murder when he was gunned down. Oxendine had been bonded out after being charged with the July 5, 2002, shooting death of Gregory Allen Chavis. He was released on $100,000 bail on Sept. 20, 2002.
Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt said since he's been the district attorney, his office has never encountered a situation where someone who has posted bond for murder was charged with an additional murder while out on bond.
Technically, Oxendine is dead only from the neck down.
Britt also said that bonds are supposed to protect the public.
That's why Chief Superior Court Judge Frank Floyd increased Brayboy's bond from $50,000 to $150,000. That bond was increased again on Sept. 11 to $500,000 by Superior Court Judge Gary Locklear. Brayboy is in the Scotland County jail on unrelated charges.
Britt said North Carolina law allows both the defense and state to file motions to modify a bond, but each has to have sufficient grounds to do so. Most of the time, the request comes from defense attorneys seeking a reduced bond, Britt said.
Britt said a bond can be set for someone charged with capital murder, but state law says a judge may deny that person bond. In all other cases that don't involve capital punishment, the defendant has a right to a bond, according to state law.
Floyd said sometimes bond will be set, even in capital cases, if someone has been sitting in jail awaiting trial for a long period of time.
Floyd recently set a bond for a Lumberton man whose capital murder trial ended in May in a mistrial. The state, however, still intends to try Tony Jacobs, who has been in jail for more than five years.
Jacobs, 27, was on trial for the May 7, 1998, stabbing of Ismael Irons, whose throat was cut with a butcher knife. A Robeson County jury was split 7 to 5 in favor of not guilty of capital murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
"How long do you keep someone incarcerated without a trial?" Floyd said. "That's the predicament the judges are in right now. You have to weigh the risk of danger and the right of the defendant when considering the amount of a bond."
Kevin Dyson would tell Floyd that he might want to consider putting his thumb on the scales when he weighs the question of bail for suspected killers.
Dyson is a member of the Maryland chapter of Join Together -- a national victim's rights organization.
In May 1999, Dyson's 23-year-old daughter, Katie, was raped and killed in her Georgetown apartment by Bobby Quintana. At the time of Katie's murder, Quintana was out on a $75,000 bail -- he'd been charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his girlfriend.
"Quintana was a drug dealer," Dyson said. "Everybody in the legal system knew it. He had plenty of cash. He should have never been allowed bail, or it should have been set so high he couldn't have possibly met it. These judges need to think twice before they let animals like this walk the streets."
Dyson's position is countered by Joseph Siegel, a public affairs officer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Locking criminal defendants up before trial -- what's called preventive detention -- tramples on one of our most fundamental rights: The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," Siegel said. "The presumption of innocence means that judges, in deciding on bail, may not consider the issue of guilt, but only whether a defendant might flee the jurisdiction if released. The purpose of bail is not to punish, but to guarantee a defendant's presence at trial."
Siegel sited a 1981 U.S. Department of Justice study that showed only 1.9 percent of all defendants released before trial were later imprisoned for serious crimes while out on bail.
Siegel also said it is impossible to predict who will commit crimes while out on bail.
"Neither judges nor psychiatrists can make accurate forecasts of future dangerousness," Siegel said. "Human behavior is just too unpredictable. In practice, preventive detention invariably ends up being applied to many who would not have committed additional crimes if released, and releasing the few who are actually dangerous. Pre-trial detention is a profoundly antidemocratic measure that does not work."
Siegel would have a hard time preaching to Diane Lambert.
Lambert's sons, Stephen, 19, and Chad, 24, were murdered on Feb. 21 at the Sandy Acres Mobile Home Park in Red Springs. The Sheriff's Office said the crime was fueled by a disagreement over drugs. The Lamberts were shot and Stephen's body was burned in an attempt to cover up the crime.
Carlton Bruce Locklear, 24, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson that same night.
On Aug. 11, Locklear was set free under a secured $100,000 bond.
"Someone accused of killing shouldn't ever get out on bail," Lambert said. "Somebody's done killed somebody else, they're liable to do it again. I got grandchildren running around this neighborhood and they deserve to be safe. Killers shouldn't be free to do it again."