Mar. 19, 2001: I am suffering from a bad case of contempt of court.

The sources of my contempt are Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice Bonner and convicted murderer Ronald Keith Spivey.

In case you missed it, Judge Bonner recently dismissed a hit and run case because two attorneys from Howard’s office were 15 minutes late. The legal beagles thought they were supposed to be there at 9:30 AM. The judge said they were supposed to be there at 9 AM. Case dismissed. I guess Her Eminence had never heard of fining lawyers for being late or putting their fannies in jail or buying them a Mickey Mouse alarm clock. When you are in a snit, you tend to overlook those little details.

The case in question concerned Shareca Tucker, killed in November 1998 when struck by four cars while crossing a road in suburban Atlanta to catch a bus for work. One of those charged with hit-and-run was Rosendo Abarca. He was the beneficiary of Her Omnipotence’s ruling. Abarca’s lawyer, George Handelsman, says his client thought he had hit some debris or had gotten a flat tire so he left. Like a lot of lawyer blather, I take that with a grain of salt but, sadly, we don’t know what the truth is because Her Worthiness decided to chuck the whole thing.

Now, she has issued the judicial equivalent of an “Oops!” and says Abarca should be tried after all. She even suggested some other judge should hear the case, which is the first thing she has said that has made sense since the whole unfortunate mess began. There is just one teeny-tiny problem. We have a constitutional prohibition against being tried twice for the same crime. It is called double jeopardy. Unless Mr. Handelsman got his law degree from Fred’s U-Haul and Motorcycle Repair, I suspect he will fight any attempt to have his client tried again. We could be talking about years.

Nowhere in this whole sorry episode does anyone seem to have considered the feelings of Shareca Tucker’s mother, Sharon Brownlee. Because the lawyers and a judge couldn’t agree on what time to get to work and now whether to even have a new trial, she has been denied the opportunity for closure of a very personal and painful event in her life. I wonder how Ms. Brownlee feels our justice system today?

Civil libertarians and other assorted do-gooders are quick to grab television face time to talk about defendants’ rights. How about a little concern for the victims’ families. Don’t they have some rights, too? At the same time that Ms. Brownlee was enduring the ridiculous spectacle in the Fulton County Superior Court, wondering if her daughter’s case will ever come to trial or if will be deep-sixed by clever lawyering and poor judging, the rest of us were enduring the public hand wringing on behalf of Ronald Keith Spivey.

Spivey was convicted of murdering Columbus police officer, Billy Watson, almost 25 years ago. In case you are counting, that is a quarter of a century. He was scheduled for electrocution. Now, there is a question as to whether or not electrocution violates the Eighth Amendment, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. I wonder if that same amendment applies to Officer Watson’s family? A bunch of preachers are petitioning the courts to prohibit electrocution because it subjects the inmates to “severe pain and prolonged suffering.” Funny, Reverends, but that same line of reasoning could apply to the family of Billy Watson and to Sharon Brownlee.

Why don’t some of the do-gooders look at the grief and agony that we have put these people through? Why don’t they take their candles and go stand in front of the Watson house and sing, like they will whenever we get around to deciding how to get ol’ Ronnie Keith a one-way trip to visit his Maker? Why doesn’t Judge Bonner tell Sharon Brownlee she blew it big time?

Our system of justice is supposed to be blind, as in not favoring one side over the other. Call me naïve but I think in the case of Shareca Tucker and Billy Watson, Lady Justice has been peeking out from behind her blindfold and stacking the deck against the victims. That is what I find so contemptible.

In the meantime, should someone send the deputies to arrest me for contempt of court, I will be easy to find. I will be the one holding my nose because this kind of justice stinks.