Courts doing better job than given credit for
October 09, 2012 12:00 AM | 1274 views | 4 4 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

I am concerned about the dark tone of your closing remarks in an editorial published Wednesday: “Judge-Jury in Daker trial set an example.” I was happy to read the first paragraphs, giving well-earned praise to Judge Mary Staley and the prosecutors (Jesse Evans and Jason Saliba). I doubt most lay people understand just how challenging the Daker trial was for those involved.

To ensure a fair trial (and avoid error that might strengthen an appeal) Judge Staley walked a fine line. So did Mssrs. Evans and Saliba — as well as the bailiffs — who were tasked with the balancing act of (1) trying to convict an accused murderer (2) fairly and legally (3) while ensuring the security of themselves, the witnesses, the victims and the jurors (4) without, again, tainting the fairness of the proceedings (see 2 above). As an attorney who has practiced in Cobb and in courts around this state and country, I have tremendous respect for all involved, including Mr. Treadaway, whose quiet service as defense counsel to Mr. Daker (as a public defender) will probably enhance the fairness of the trial in the eyes of any future appellate court. So the praise is well-deserved for the participants in ensuring Daker was convicted justly and sentenced appropriately.

And that is why I do not understand the abrupt change in tone at the end of your editorial. The MDJ took an example of laudable public service — the judge, the prosecutors, the lawyers — and depicted it as a “refreshing” exception in an “era” of “lip service to victim’s rights.” I’m not sure what personal experience your editorial staff has in the justice system but the courts and professionals I deal with — by and large — do not fit the caricature your editorial writer perceives. It saddened me that the good work of so many people was twisted it into a broadside slander of the justice to which these people have committed their professional lives.

Your readers deserve more than pandering to silly stereotypes. Admittedly, criminals do, as you write, “get the benefit of every (reasonable) doubt from the court system.” That is the law. It is our constitutional right that we will not be convicted of any crime and our liberty taken unless guilt is proven sufficiently. Perhaps your editorial staff would rather abandon the presumption of innocence but I doubt most people, if they thought about it for a moment, would agree.

For lawyers and judges in this community, I believe the real problems of our “era” are not of “bleeding hearts” “falling for accused killers’ sob stories” or judges who merely give “lip service to victims.” As an attorney who has spent most of his career in or near the Cobb courthouse, I believe a far more pressing concern is public cynicism about the mission of the jury system wherein lawyers and judges work to ensure all people are equal before the law and receive a fair trial. The system is far from perfect — what human institution is? But citizens, especially in Cobb, often do not realize how much an asset their justice system really is. Your editorial started out in the right direction, but its concluding paragraph went off the rails.

There are enough misconceptions about the justice system without the editorial staff of the MDJ stoking them. I hope the next time you write to congratulate people like Judge Staley, Mr. Evans, the jurors, etc., you can do it without trying so hard to depict a success as a rare exception to an otherwise bleak and cynical rule. They, and their peers, are doing a better job overall than I think you are giving credit for.

John F. Salter


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David Welden
October 09, 2012
I agree that Cobb's Court system is one of the best around. In particular, Judge Staley deserves special commendation.

However, one need only go as far as the Fulton County Superior Court or the Georgia Supreme Court to find massive incompetence and corruption, some of which defies description.

The title to Mr. Salter's piece should specify the "Cobb County Courts doing better job than given credit for".
October 09, 2012
The following article may partially explain why many Citizens may have issues with our Judicial system.

Updated: 8:08 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 | Posted: 8:07 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5, 2012

Officers suspended after traffic stop with judge

The Associated Press

MACON, Ga. —

The Bibb County sheriff said Thursday that two of his officers will be suspended without pay for their actions at a traffic checkpoint where a local judge was stopped.

Sheriff's officials say officers stopped Bibb County Judge Howard Simms on Sept. 22 for a license check during an operation they called "Rolling Thunder." Sheriff's reports state the judge was allowed to drive home although a roadside breath test showed his alcohol level was above the legal limit.

Sheriff Jerry Modena says a captain will be suspended for five days and a sergeant will be suspended for three days.

Simms, a Superior Court judge and former district attorney, said in a statement last month that he was entering an in-patient alcohol addiction treatment facility. The judge has not been charged with DUI.

Pat H
October 09, 2012
I congratulate Judge Staley for conducting the Daker trial professionally, as well as holding Jessica Colotl accountable, finally.

I hope and pray that Judge Staley be in charge of the Dwight Brown trial. We continue to be held hostage by the slow judicial system and District Attorney bungling or downright trickery.
oliver G. Halle
October 09, 2012
Mr. Salter, You have written a very factual and articulate LTE, and should be commended for taking on the editorial writer at the MDJ for all the reasons you stated. I suspect the writer only has a superficial understanding of the Constitution and the long history of precedents that protect individual rights. The editorialist left out that our country has one of the highest numbers of prison inmates in the world. I am no bleeding heart by any definition, but I firmly believe that if the state isn't required to meet its burden of proof, no one is safe from capricious prosecutions. Judges and juries usually get it right, and while there is always room for the criminal justice system to be improved, I think the Cobb DA's office and judiciary are as competent and fair as you will find anywhere in the U.S. I have no idea, like Mr. Salter, where the editorial writer came up with some of the closing comments, unless as Mr. Salter said, it was for pandering purposes. Well done and said, Mr. Salter.
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