Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In Praise of Judge Barry Steelman

[Update, Tuesday, November 23, 2:40 P<]: A Georgia judge has found Ron De Laby not guilty of felony witness intimidation. Ron is the person whose successful appeal of a wrongful indictment ultimately provided the legal basis for the quashing of the indictment against Eric Echols.

In the De Laby case, a private investigator was uncovering prosecutorial misconduct in a child molestation case in Forsythe County, and the prosecutors did what they did to Eric Echols: trump up false charges against him before he destroyed their case completely. The prosecutor was James Dunn, Chief ADA and primary instigator is Sandra Partridge, and the D.A. Is Penny Penn. These are dishonest, vindictive people and Partridge is especially bad, someone who is in the Chris Arnt and Len Gregor class.

Even though the original charges against Mr. De Laby were thrown out by an appeals court (which was the decision to which the judge in Mr. Echols' case referred), Dunn and Partridge re-indicted him on the SAME charges with the same information. In other words, they gave the courts the middle finger and did what they pleased.

Not surprisingly, the Georgia State Bar refuses to deal with these people who, according to the "watchdogs," are just "doing their jobs." [End Update]

As I watched the horror show that is the LMJC unfold last spring in "judge" Brian Outhouse's alleged courtroom, I realized that the LMJC is hopeless, absolutely hopeless. Outhouse and his handler, Chris "Facebook-Cruisemaster" Arnt, were trying to rig a conviction against Tonya Craft, only to have a jury which I'm sure that prosecutors and Outhouse thought was "safe" to return a "not guilty" verdict against Ms. Craft.

This was corruption at its worst, although I fear that what we saw in that Georgia courtroom is going to become the norm in this country in the near future. However, there are people who do stand against the tide, people who refuse to go along with the "new order" that prosecutors wish to impose on all of us. Apparently, Judge Barry Steelman is one of those people.

In a speech given this past Monday, he told the Chattanooga Pachyderm Club that he wants to "get it right," not simply get it done as quickly as possible, and for that I applaud him. The Chattanoogan reported:
Judge Steelman said, "We try to expedite our dockets, but we want to get it done right rather than doing it quick."

He added, "It is very, very important when a person's liberty is at stake that we get it right."
It is hard to underestimate how important Judge Steelman's statement really is. Outhouse knew that Tonya Craft's liberty was at stake, and he did everything to keep exculpatory evidence from the jury, and also to let in "evidence" he knew either was false or, at best, terribly tainted.

Let me put it another way. Outhouse KNEW (or at least should have known) that Ms. Craft was innocent, yet he tried to rig a conviction -- and that is exactly what he did. Furthermore, the prosecutors and their gaggle of perjuring witnesses knew Ms. Craft was innocent, yet they went along with the whole show. The gulf between Outhouse and his LMJC pals and Judge Steelman is so wide and deep that the people might as well be on different planets.

Imagine Judge Steelman having heard the Craft case. Does anyone think he would have put up with the "Animal House" antics of Facebook-Cruisemaster and "The Man"? Would he have endorsed the "I just remembered" perjury from Joal and Sarah Henke? Would he have supported the document that was fabricated to bolster the "hand rape" allegations that appeared from nowhere?

Somehow, I doubt that a man who wants to "get it right" would have kowtowed to prosecutors and let them run his courtroom in a high-profile trial. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if Judge Steelman actually permits exculpatory evidence to be shown to a jury, unlike Outhouse, who did everything he could to keep the truth out of that room and away from jurors.

I have no idea about the veracity of the other criminal court judges in Hamilton County, Tennessee. While I hope they have the same integrity as Judge Steelman has demonstrated, I simply cannot make that assessment without knowledge. My guess is that even on a bad day, the justice apparatus of Hamilton County would be infinitely better than the best day of a court in the LMJC.

There is something else to point out. Judge Steelman spoke to a Republican gathering, and Republicans always pride themselves on being "tough on crime," and all too often, "tough on crime" has translated into an outright assault on justice itself. I have no idea if Judge Steelman is a Republican or Democrat, and I really don't care; I do care about people in positions of power and authority doing what is right, even if what is right is unpopular.

I have received comments from people in the LMJC that they don't like my casting aspersions upon their conduct and how they do things in Northwest Georgia. All I can say is that if they are willing to put a man like "judge" Brian Outhouse into a black robe with their votes, and if the entire LMJC apparatus, from judges to bailiffs to people who clean courthouse bathrooms, was willing to participate in the outright corruption that was the Tonya Craft trial, then I really have nothing to say to those people who accept paychecks from that organization.

Yes, I know, there were and are people in that organization who have a moral compass, but they need to ask themselves why it is that the very, very worst got on top. And it is not just Tonya Craft. This judicial circuit has a horrible reputation and it is well-deserved.

So, let me ask the people of Northwest Georgia this question: Could Barry Steelman even be elected as a judge in the LMJC?


Anonymous said...

Mr Anderson, I am sure that there are plenty of people here who COULD be a Barry Steelman in this area, but it's so corrupt, who wants to buck the system? Not a lawyer for sure.

Anonymous said...

It troubles me greatly about one of Judge Steelman's comments. He indicated a grand jury spends on average 12 minutes per case. That means in the time it takes to walk a few laps around a track, a grand jury has considered evidence, evaluated it and voted whether that evidence rises to the level of probable cause. That is simply unacceptable. As we witnessed in TC case, all it takes is an indictment to RUIN a person's life. That statistic has to change in order for the grand jury to be a barrier between government and the people instead of a mere rubber stamp. Judge Steelman was speaking to Republicans who in my opinion are part of the problem. They are the first ones to scream "tough on crime" and rush to enact new laws. Now, in a land of the free, just about everything that offends someone else is a crime. so instead of the grand jury focusin on real crime, they also have to deal with the "don't offend me" crimes that are literally clogging the courts. When you dont have a judge who is making sure things are done properly, an overwhelmed grand jury is the perfect playground for a rogue prosecutor.

Jerri Lynn Ward said...

I have an acquaintance who has done a lot of research on the history of the grand jury system in this country. He has examined a lot of original documents about its former powers and authorities, including its administrative functions outside indictments. It is his opinion that overloading a grand jury is a tactic to decrease its authority in favor of professional prosecutors.

He is in favor of reconstituting grand juries in their old roles, while making some modifications for the fact that we are now so urban and populous.

Anonymous said...

Jeri, I couldn't agree more. The original system did what it was put in place to do. I've had some interesting conversations with people (authorities)in HC regarding this. The sad part is, my tax dollars go to the LMJC which is either never going to be fixed or it will not be in my lifetime.

Bill, I believe Kevin West took a couple of pictures of Tonya & Judge Steelman on election night having a discussion. I would have loved to have been able to hear it. Everything I've observed from Steelman is that he has character. Not every judge can get everything right, but I've always seen him go the extra mile to make sure things went right. Such as, allowing exculpatory evidence in cases. We need more like him & that's a fact.

As a voter in the LMJC, I can say that I would vote for him in a heartbeat. Sad thing, who knows when we will have someone of his calibur running? We do have some younger lawyers here & I personally have thought about running, but I've stepped on too many toes in the good ole boy network here, so it would be ugly & my family is too important to me. Mom & wife first, then health issues, but soon, the latter will be fine.

I'm ready to get back to work!!!


KC Sprayberry said...

Does an individual of Judge Steelman's caliber have a chance in LMJC? No. He would never kowtow to the powers behind the 'throne' and therefore, they'd find a way to discredit him - in whatever way they could. That those methods would never stand the smell test doesn't bother those running the supposed judicial system in NW GA. Sadly, the attention you've put on this area still isn't making much of a difference, other than complaints. Case in point. LaFayette High School dismissed early last Thursday. The Schoolcast call to parents (including me) came 45 minutes after the bomb threat was found and the school evacuated. Kids weren't allowed to contact their parents - they were ordered to turn off their cell phones. But the reality of that situation came the next day when the cops questioned my son about the activities of one of his friends who made an unfortunate comment while the students waited in the bleachers for rides home. That comment? "Boy, we get the rest of the day off. Yeah." Okay, there are teens. They're going to make comments like that. But to question and threaten a teen who believes he's in a custodial position (I asked and my kid said he didn't think he could leave without getting in trouble) without a parent is wrong. What's even more wrong is the disclipline report he received for forgetting about a stupid comment. Even worse, the cop questioning him threatened to arrest my kid for 'impeding a criminal investigation'. I know this particular officer and he not only would do this, but has done so in the past, even going so far as accuse people of crimes without evidence. The school closed for the holiday before I found out about this Friday but I do hope the principal reads this blog. Then he'll have warning of the angry parent about to descend on him come next Monday. I don't really care about anything by my kid learning right from wrong - and the way that cop and assistant principal treated him was dead on wrong! For reasons like this, we need individuals of Judge Steelman's caliber around.

Cinderella said...

Bill, I'm so glad you wrote this. Judge Steelman is a man of sound and wise judgement. From personal experience he was just as wise and reasonable as ADA in Hamilton County. Of course we have/had at least one cowboy ADA that wasn't. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

I have personally known Barry Steelman and his family since I was a kid. My family attended Red Bank Baptist Church where his father was the preacher for 30 or so years. Barry is a few years older than me, but being at the church as much as we were as kids, I still got to know him. Let's just say, he got good raisin'. He truly is a man of integrity that tries to do the right thing and it shows in his courtroom. It's not just a show. The LMJC could definitely take a few pointers from him!

Anonymous said...

KC!!!!! Wow! That's all I can say right now.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone out there, that can tell me if you use a person name, to get a true bill push thru. and they did not know that their was on the list, And they were for The one who was being accused, Can a prosecutor do that,
what I am trying to say is that legal.
I need to know asap.. Please..

Anonymous said...

anon 12:14, can you re-phrase the question? it's a little hard to understand. maybe give an example or something of that nature. there are several of us on here that can answer, but unsure of the actual question.

Doc Ellis 124 said...

tweeted as 'Bill Anderson on a judge who gets it right in In Praise of Judge Barry Steelman'.

Thank you for writing this essay.

Doc Ellis 124

Anonymous said...

12:14, your question is not clear, tell us what happened and one of us can answer. It appears that you are trying to say that someone was willing to testify on behalf of the accused at a grand jury proceeding. However, the prosecutor did not call that person and instead represented to the grand jury that the person willing to testify would testify against the accused. Is that the scenario?

Anonymous said...

Bill, off subject a bit, but going back to the discussion of the TSA, have you read the story out of the AJC today? If not, here you go.


William L. Anderson said...

I have a TSA post for tomorrow. Thanks for the article!

Anonymous said...

Were you already doing one, or was I reading your mind???? Creepy isn't it? ha!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if House has had a visit from Hyde yet?

Anonymous said...

anon 1:49, the first one got cut off, but the wsj article & the link to the original ajc article was very interesting. Would love to see Hyde pay a visit to House, Van Pelt, Wood and Cook-Connoly-Smith-Jones (whatever she wants to go by now...hahaha).

Maybe that's who we should call.

William L. Anderson said...

Does anyone know how to contact Hyde? There is no more corrupt judge in Georgia than "judge" Brian Outhouse.

Anonymous said...

The thing about Outhouse and his ilk is they will not stop without being forced to stop. Stopping or reversin course would be an admission they were doing something wrong. Psychopaths never admit they did something wrong. Just as in the Delaby case, the corrupt DA's persisted, and probably will continue to do so until Hyde or the Fed gets a hold of them. Denying someone their due process rights, a fundamental guarantee of our constitution, by malicious prosecution or other devious tactics is just as much a civil rights violation as anything. At least for Echols, to say that it was not malicious is laughable. When he was legitimately assaulted, and called "black bastard" he found no relief under the law. If that is not an image from the days of drinking from the "colored" water fountain then I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Well, the JQC wasn't much help. Hmmmmmm....

Anonymous said...

12:14 What I am trying to say is When you take your info to a grand jury to get a indictment to see if
you have enough to have a trial.
and you take your witness list.and
two witiness on the prosecutor list was for the accused. not the accuser, they were very important people and did not know their names was on the accuser list.12:38
you have it right. Sorry I do not know how to explain it.Can you put people on the list to get it to go thru. And does the ada take this to grand jury. hope I did better as you can see I do not know anything about all this..

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they quit tring to prosucute every little thing that moves and stop bringing false charges against people. they wouldn't have 648 case to go thru in 15 days. So threfore they would have plenty of time to try the good ones, you would think.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:33, if the indictment has been issued, then I am not aware of any way to get a "redo." There may be a way but I am not sure. If there is no indictment yet, I believe a witness can request to testify in front of the grand jury. The ADA is the one who presents the case to the grand jury. What I am confused about is, how do you know what happened in the grand jury proceeding? Those are supposed to be secret. rarely does the accused ever testify. If the ADA knowingly presented false testimony to the grand jury, I think that may be a basis to have the indictment quashed. You will need to consult a criminal defense lawyer though.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anon 10:30. I am guessing the indictment from the GJ has already happened. That would really be the only way for you to have the information. Unless you had an insider on the GJ, then that person would be invalid & you would have a case to have it quashed & that person would no longer be on the GJ.

I think my original thought of the indictment being in place is right though. So just let us know that part.

Now, onto the way the GJ works now. The ADA puts in a bill to the GJ for either it to be true or passed upon. It would be rarity for someone (say a victim or witness) to testify. Basically, the DA has a summary of "the incident" and it gets the "rubber stamp" of a true bill. This is why so many cases are either taken to trial or pled out. Once a person receives the indictment from the GJ, they often feel like they have no choice. Either financial restrictions or just plain "I don't know what to do's", usually ends up with the person pleading to a lesser charge. It's very sad. Either the ADA already knew that these people were going to testify for the defense & chose to still go forward (more than likely) or they simply threw the bill in front of the GJ and knew it would go through.

Here is my advice, if the person is truly innocent of the charges and has witnesses, please force them to take it to trial. If it's in HC, they actually have some decent public defenders if cost is an issue. As Judge Steelman said himself, the GJ usually takes 12 minutes per case. That is not enough & also, the defense can not go before the GJ & state their case. This is not what the GJ was set in place to do. It was to be a check & balance for the cases brought before it to determine if it was in fact a case or just trumped up b.s. I couldn't think of a more simple way to put it. Prosecutors know this & have used this to their advantage for years. YES, there are criminals who must pay the piper, but there are also so many that simply are not true crimes or should be punished by fines.

I know I went a little deep into the process, but it is something a lot of people do not understand. An indictment does NOT indicate guilt! It simply means the ADA had a paralegal who was able to summarize well. Also, before I go, in some cases, the lead detective or someone of that nature will "testify", but that too is so rare anymore.

Our "system" & its "process" have become jokes. If the accused has been indicted and is truly innocent, please take it to trial. Please!