Around Town: Changing Seats? Berry eyeing switch to bench from defense table
by Otis Brumby, Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby - Around Town Columnists
September 01, 2012 12:00 AM | 7828 views | 2 2 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEFENSE ATTORNEY Jimmy Berry, who has successfully represented a “rogues gallery” of Cobb’s most notorious killers in recent decades, is ready for a change. Berry told Around Town this week he plans to apply next week for appointment to the Cobb Juvenile Court bench to succeed Greg Poole, who was elected July 31 as Cobb Superior Court judge to succeed the retiring Dorothy Robinson.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and seems like a good time to do something else,” Berry said.

Cobb native Berry, 69, has practiced law in Marietta for 42 years. His partner of 12 years, Vic Reynolds, was elected as Cobb District Attorney July 31.

Twelve other attorneys have made known their plans to apply for the judgeship as well. The Juvenile judge earns $146,000 per year and is selected by a majority vote of Cobb’s 10 Superior Court judges.

“There are some other really strong attorneys applying for the job, so I am not presumptuous enough to think I’ve got a great shot at it,” said Berry, a graduate of John Marshall School of Law in Atlanta.

Other applicants thus far include Cobb State Court Judge Roland Castellanos, who ran unsuccessfully this summer against Poole for Superior Court; Sara Clay, whose husband is former state Sen. Chuck Clay (R-Marietta); and Joyette Holmes, who ran a strong but unsuccessful race this summer for Cobb State Court.

“It’s hard to give up your practice when you’ve had it so long,” Berry said. “I’ve had the fortune to have some good cases. But they wear you down, especially all the traveling.”

He averages 15 to 20 trials per year, he said, in addition to dozens of other cases that never make it that far.

One of the death penalty cases handled by Berry was later the basis for the TV movie “Stay The Night” — that of teenager Michael Kettman Jr., who was solicited by his much older lover, north Cobb hairdresser Jimmie Sue Finger, to kill her husband, Terry Lee Finger.

Berry also co-defended (with famed attorney Bobby Lee Cook) east Cobb lawyer and Atlanta traffic court judge Fred Tokars, who was found guilty of soliciting the murder of his wife, Sarah Tokars. She was killed by a shotgun blast in front of their two young sons in what became one of the metro area’s most high-profile murder cases of the 1990s. Another client high on the notoriety scale was Lynn Turner, who used anti-freeze to silently poison first her husband, police officer Glenn Turner, and later her boyfriend, firefighter Randy Thompson.

Berry has handled 50 death penalty trials in all and in 47 of them has managed to keep his client off “Death Row.” The exceptions were the trials of Stacey Humphreys for the 2003 shootings of two real estate agents in west Cobb; Michael Ledford for the beating death of a female bicycler on the Silver Comet Trail; and Josh Armstrong for the beating death and robbery of a 62-year-old Mableton woman in 1999. He has three more death penalty cases pending, including that of Patrick Gray Graham in the 2007 killing of a GameStop store manager; and that of Jesse James Warren, accused of fatally shooting three people at the Penske truck rental site in Kennesaw in 2010.

When Around Town noted that Berry has been “the go-to guy” for those accused of heinous crimes in Cobb, he answered, “Yea, and it’s about time for somebody else to be ‘the go-to guy.'"

“WASHINGTONIAN” magazine has confirmed what Cobb County residents have known for decades about Johnny Isakson: He’s a heck of a nice guy.

The magazine named the U.S. Senator from east Cobb as the “Nicest” person on Capitol Hill in its biannual “Best & Worst of Congress” issue just published. The rankings were determined by a poll of hundreds of congressional staffers, and the magazine noted that Isakson had outpaced a half-dozen runners-up combined for the title.

We’re not surprised. The east Cobb native has made a career of seeking consensus with those on the other side of the political aisle; first in the state Legislature, later as state school board chairman, then as a congressman and since 2004 as a senator.

Also scoring high in the magazine’s rankings was vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, who took first in the “Workhorse” congressman category and second in “Gym Rat.” He also was tapped as “Most Likely to be President Someday.”

Chosen as “Funniest” were Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who formerly was a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

“Most Partisan” were Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (no surprises there). “Least Partisan” were Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio). Winners for most “Clueless” were Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who you’ll recall expressed fears a year or two back that Guam’s population growth could cause that island to “tip over.”

And oh yes: If Isakson is “Nicest,” who was “Meanest”? That would be Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (R-Tex.)

MEMBERS of The Society of the 5th Division United States Army are holding their national convention this weekend at the Marietta Hilton Conference Center, including a handful of veterans of World War II. The organization is comprised of 5th Infantry Division veterans of that war, Vietnam, Panama and the Cold War era. The division — nicknamed “The Red Diamond” after its distinctive red insignia — was deactivated in 1992. Among its veterans was Marietta’s Arnold Whittaker, 86, who passed away in May, said Society spokeswoman Mary Phagan-Kean of Cobb, whose husband Buck is a veteran of the 5th.


LOCAL GADFLY Craig Harfoot has announced plans to run as a write-in candidate for Cobb Commission chairman in the Nov. 6 election. Harfoot got 19 percent of the vote when he ran in the GOP Primary for chairman against incumbent Sam Olens in 2004 and got 7 percent in a three-man race for chairman won by Olens in 2002. He has long been an outspoken critic of the board at many of its meetings.


POLITICS is a contact sport, goes the old saying. And the just-concluded GOP Convention in Tampa was no different, indicated new state Rep.-elect Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw.), who knocked off incumbent Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) in the July 31 Republican Primary.

Gregory, an ardent Ron Paul supporter who was in Tampa not as a delegate but as the guest of Paul delegate Oleg Ivutin of Smyrna, sounded disenchanted by the process when he talked with MDJ News Editor Kim Isaza on Friday.

“Within the Georgia delegation, the unbound delegates who refused to vote for Romney were singled out, coerced, publicly berated, and even threatened — some of it caught on video,” Gregory emailed Isaza. “This makes no sense to me — as if winning anything 72 to 4 isn’t enough. Of course, this isn’t unique to our state.

“After a year of being on the front lines it is clear to me that we live in an oligarchy and no longer a Republic and the Republican National Convention brought my disillusionment to an entirely new level. This isn’t about Ron Paul who obviously didn’t have the number of delegates necessary at the convention; this is about the illusion that we the people, or the grassroots have any say whatsoever.”


NO, SHE’S NOT REALLY THAT TALL: MDJ readers on Wednesday might have been wondering if Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was an Amazon, based on how she towered over Georgia AG Olens in the front page picture showing the two side-by-side as they rehearsed for their Wednesday night address to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Well, although Olens is not the tallest man in town, there’s a simpler explanation for their height disparity in the picture: Bondi was wearing 7-inch-tall heels, he says. Channeling Lady Gaga, perhaps?
Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 01, 2012
Sam Olens may have said her heels were 7 inches but they didn't look it. Is Sam trying to make excuses for the fact that he's such a dimunitive person! And what's his excuse for looking so heavy.
Pat H
September 01, 2012
Of course Isakson is willing to work with Democrats. He used to be one and then paired with late Sen. Ted Kennedy (the tower of virtue) to write and support the amnesty bill.

The amnesty only failed because of the loud outcry of American citizens and taxpayers. So Isackson the cowardly traitor then voted against the very bill he wrote and supported.

Isackson is rich enough (one of the richest in the Senate) and unwilling to represent the view of his constituents and needs to go.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides