LITTLE ROCK — A divided Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed the legality of cash-only bond for defendants, a decision that inspired the court’s chief justice to cite Johnny Cash lyrics in a dissenting opinion.

LITTLE ROCK — A divided Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed the legality of cash-only bond for defendants, a decision that inspired the court’s chief justice to cite Johnny Cash lyrics in a dissenting opinion.


In a 5-2 decision, the court rejected Ramon Trujillo’s argument that a Benton County circuit judge improperly set a $300,000 cash-only bond after Trujillo was arrested for violating a no-contact order that was a condition of his previous release on a $25,000 bond in a domestic battery case.


Trujillo argued in a petition to the Supreme Court that Arkansas does not allow cash-only bond. In its majority opinion, the court disagreed, noting that the Arkansas Constitution states that defendants can be bailed out of jail upon the posting of "sufficient sureties."


"Based on the plain language of the constitution and our stated purpose for bail, we hold that the term ‘sufficient sureties’ refers to a broad range of methods to accomplish ‘sufficient sureties,’ including cash," Justice Karen Baker wrote for the majority.


Chief Justice Howard Brill opened his dissenting opinion with 14 lines from Johnny Cash’s song "Starkville City Jail."


"Well they emptied out my pockets, took my pills and guitar picks./I said, ‘Wait, my name is…’ ‘Aw shut up.’ Well I sure was in a fix," Brill’s quotation from the song begins.


"After being arrested for trespassing and picking flowers, Johnny Cash spent the night in the Starkville City Jail. His ballad suggests that he was not taken before a magistrate or given the opportunity to be released on bail," Brill wrote.


Brill said in his dissent that cash-only bond may have advantages, such as making it less likely a person will flee, but "it may have an unfair, even disparate impact, upon lower-income defendants without resources."


He also said the Arkansas Constitution guarantees a person the right to provide any sufficient surety for release, and cash-only bond deprives a person of that right.


In a separate dissenting opinion, Justice Josephine Hart said, ‘This decision will disproportionately impact the poor, as well as those whose wealth is invested and (who) do not have readily at their disposal large sums of cash."