Sunday was Father’s Day. It was relaxing—wonderful, actually.
Then on Monday the lead started flying.
We had jury trials in Spalding and in Fayette. Warfare on two fronts. In Spalding, Michele McCutcheon had a murder case. In Fayette we had Ben Coker starting with a serious injury by vehicle trial. Meanwhile, David McDade had about 65 other cases in Fayette. And nobody knew what would be next.
The serious injury case is one you may recall from TV. A young man had placed a Go Pro camera on his helmet and filmed his trip on a motorcycle down Crabapple Lane in Tyrone. He was going too fast. The defendant was a woman who lived on the road. She had pulled her car in front of the motorcycle, trying to slow him down. The boy hit her car and crashed into a creek. The Go Pro video captured the entire event, including the gruesome injuries to the boy’s leg, which doctors later amputated.
Our position was that both parties had been wrong. The boy drove too fast. For that he had paid dearly. But, we felt that the woman had violated laws by pulling into his path intentionally. The charges were serious injury by vehicle (a felony) and three misdemeanors, including aggressive driving. The jury worked very hard, but could not reach a unanimous verdict on the felony. It did convict on the misdemeanors and Judge Mack Crawford will set the sentence in a few weeks.
Behind the scenes, McDade was busy. When the smoke cleared he had resolved all but a handful of the cases on the calendar.
Meanwhile, Michele was cracking heads in Griffin. The defendant was accused of shooting the victim nine times, several of those shots in the back as he tried to crawl away on his knees. The defense claimed that the victim had a gun and this was self-defense.
There was a gun near our victim’s body. It was close to his left hand. He was right-handed. Our witnesses said he did not have a gun during the killing. We argued that the defendant’s friends planted the gun after the murder.
I wish I could have seen what I’m about to relate. I got distracted by media calls in Fayette. Some rap star I’ve never heard of got arrested and our phone exploded. TMZ called. So did People Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, Reuters, an Atlanta radio station, and the Atlanta TV news stations. So, I missed the type of cross-examination lawyers dream about.
It went like this. The defense thought a man would say our victim had a gun. So they put him on the witness stand. He said the victim had no gun.
Reeling from that, the defense called another witness who said that the previous witness had said something different to him—he had told him the victim had a gun.
Michele lit into him. “You’ve spent a total of one hour with the previous witness, is that correct? And that was while both of you were in jail? And weren’t you in jail because you were convicted for crimes with your gang? And the hour that you were around the witness, both of you were in ‘the hole’ being disciplined? And the reason you were being disciplined was that you had been throwing your feces all over the jail? So do you really expect this jury to believe a feces-throwing gang banger?”
I guess the jury didn’t believe him. They convicted on every count and Judge Fletcher Sams sentenced the murderer to life in prison with no possibility of parole, plus ten more years.
It could have been worse.
He could have put him in “the hole” with a feces-throwing gang banger.
Scott Ballard is District Attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which consists of Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.