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May 24, 2007 Issue

Jury duty dodgers could be jailed
Judge May publicly reprimanded
Rabies virus found in fox

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Jury duty dodgers could be jailed

• Judges say something has to be done to enforce attendance for both grand and traverse jury duty

By Parish Howard
Publisher

At least two area Superior Court judges are ready to lay down the law when it comes to area citizens doing their civic duty.

“We have a growing problem with an increasing number of potential jurors not showing up when summoned for either grand jury or traverse jury duty,” said Superior Court Judge Bobby Reeves Friday, four days after nearly a third of those summoned for the May term failed to appear

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“This is a serious problem.” Judge Reeves and fellow Superior Court Judge Kathy S. Palmer have drafted a “show cause order” they plan to use to summon 15 of the 23 potential jurors, those who had not contacted the court as of last week with an excuse, to come before them on June 1 at 2 p.m. to explain why they failed to appear.

Those to be summoned are Derek A. Newsome of Stapleton, Jennifer R. T. Farrer of Wadley, Michael S. Usry of Wrens, Roger L. Bell of Bartow, Shanna S. Hammonds of Louisville, Ernestine Martin of Wadley, Willie Ray Webb of Wadley, William J. Bowles of Wrens, Daphne E. Fuller of Wrens, Meria Alexander of Louisville, Roger Seafus of Louisville, Sonya E. McDonald of Stapleton, Lillie E. Whigham of Wrens, Mary Brown of Wadley and Clara McCloud of Wrens.

Those who cannot show good reason for their failure to appear in court could be found in contempt and face up to 20 days in jail or a $500 fine for each case of contempt of court.

“We called potential trial jurors and only around 60 of 90 appeared.

That’s about a third that didn’t show,” Judge Palmer said.

“We barely had enough to do what was required.”

They originally planned to hear five cases last week, but in the end only had to pick juries for three.

“And we had to recycle jurors to have enough,” she said.

“We understand that some people have moved away, addresses have changed and that there are other similar situations.

But the court needs to know about them so we can make other plans.”

Jefferson County Clerk of Court Mickey Jones said he normally sends out jury notifications three weeks in advance and so there should be little reason why anyone should have trouble contacting his office if they have conflicts that cannot be scheduled around this civic duty.

“This is a growing problem that must be addressed,” Judge Reeves said.

Both judges referred to a recent grand jury session for which 26 people were summoned, but only 15 appeared. The law requires that 16 jurors must be present for a grand jury to take action.

“There was one man who I had denied bond on who was coming up on his 90 days of incarceration,” Reeves said. “He was accused of robbing a neighbor of his, a retired school teacher, of his retirement check. Well, without a grand jury to indict him at that time, by law I had to set a bond and the man is now back out on the street, in the same neighborhood with the victim.”

“Without a jury, the system just doesn’t work,” Judge Palmer added later. “Everyone is entitled to be heard by a jury of their peers. Without that jury, the system falls apart.”

According to the judges, shortages of jurors cause a variety of problems for officials, plaintiffs and victims, as well as the accused.

“Without jurors we can’t set bonds like we need to get people out of jail,” Judge Palmer said. “You also have the victims who feel the system has let them down, that there is no justice for the crime, or civil wrong, committed against them. People accused of crimes have the right to a speedy trial and if there is no jury, that is prolonged.”

Both judges cited the cost to the county tax payers, the wasted money and time on all the paperwork, lawyers, bailiffs and other personnel, witnesses and law enforcement who are subpoenaed to be there.

Judge Reeves said he recalls former Judge Walter C. McMillan bragging years ago that Jefferson County always had 95 percent or better turnout for jury duty.

“Don’t get us wrong, this isn’t just happening in our area or in Jefferson County,” Reeves said. “But we have to do something about it. To be a nation that truly governs itself, we have to take part in our government.”

The judges agreed that they look at serving on juries as one of American’s most fundamental patriotic duties.

“We look at your duty serve on a jury as the second most important civic duty,” Palmer said. “The first, is your duty to vote.”

Potential jury lists are chosen from voter registration lists, the rolls of property owners in the county as well as from lists driver’s license holders.

Palmer said that she realizes that people move and people die and people go on vacation and there are medical reasons people cannot serve on juries, however, she claims, that is more reason to update records with the county courthouse to make sure they are up-to-date.

Those with valid excuses are always welcomed to call the clerk of court’s office at (478) 625-7922, Clerk Mickey Jones said. However, Judge Reeves suggested that those granted “one-time” excuses be placed on the top of the next term’s jury selection pool.



Judge May publicly reprimanded

• Glascock commissioners each filed complaint addressing a host of issues

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Glascock County Magistrate Judge Misty May was publicly reprimanded during the court selection for a traverse jury Monday morning in the courtroom at the Glascock County Courthouse by Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr.

The reprimand came after a year and a half investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) prompted by a complaint filed against Judge May because of findings in a 2005 audit by Jones, Jones, Davis and Associates.

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JQC’s Executive Director Cheryl F. Custer announced last Monday that May would receive the reprimand in the courtroom after the JQC came to a conclusion on the matter.

May said Tuesday that because of improper reporting by television and radio stations, citizens believe that she was arrested, when actually she was only reprimanded by Judge Dunaway during the court session Monday.

“There was no criminal act,” May said Tuesday. “I chose to be reprimanded publicly for my failure to maintain the administrative duties of the court, which consisted of not making daily deposits nor timely monthly reports.”

May explained that the reports must be filed every 30 days and admitted thather reports were past due on several occasions. She also said that she was in violation of not making deposits on time.

May said this is the first time she had been reprimanded and she chose to have the public reprimand instead of filing an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

“I could have appealed it to the Supreme Court to review the investigation,” she said. “I chose not to go any further because the facts are the facts.”

In September 2005, Glascock County Commission Chairman Anthony Griswell said that after the audit, they found that the money passing through the court was not tracked as thoroughly as needed by the Magistrate’s office.

“There was no money missing,” Commission Griswell said at the commissioners' meeting. “The findings were more on how the books were kept.”

During Monday’s traverse jury session, Judge Dunaway reportedly read word for word the reprimand in front of the public and members of the JQC who were on hand to make sure the letter was read exactly as it was written.

The letter states:

“That on or about April of 2006, a complaint was filed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission against you by the Board of Commissioners of Glascock County. This complaint, which was filed by each Commissioner, alleged that you 1) failed to properly account for Magistrate Funds and to remit them to the proper parties and that you failed to remit monies due to the county; 2) failed to properly deposit and account for funds of the Magistrate Court; 3) repeatedly failed to follow practices recommended by the county auditor for the proper management of the Magistrate Court; 4) have handled matters that were beyond the scope and jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court; and 5) had improper ex-parte communications and discussions with individuals who had appeared before you in court.

“Based on these allegations, the Commission requested your response to these accusations, and after a thorough investigation, the Commission has concluded that you have in fact violated Canon 2A and Canon 3C of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

“Canon 2A of the Code of Judicial Conduct, states in part: Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities.

“Judges shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. Judges must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. Judges must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. Judges must therefore accept restrictions on their conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen, and they should do so freely and willingly.

“Canon 3C further states in part: Judges shall perform the duties of their office impartially and diligently.

“The judicial duties of judges take precedence over all other activities. Their judicial duties include all the duties of their office prescribed by law. In the performance of these duties, the following standards apply: Judges shall diligently discharge their administrative responsibilities without bias or prejudice, maintain professional competence in judicial administration, and should cooperate with other judges and court officials in the administration of their official duties.

“The public expects, and the Code of Judicial Conduct demands, that judges be held to a high standard of ethical conduct. The Code of Judicial Conduct requires you to diligently perform all duties assigned to your position, including the maintaining and handling of monies for the court. Your multi-year failure to implement the standards and procedures recommended by the county auditors shows a lack of understanding of the mandatory requirement that you maintain meticulous records of the monies entrusted to you as Judge of the Magistrate Court. This failure to perform your administrative duties in a careful and precise manner is unacceptable and must not be repeated. Your actions are a reflection of not only yourself, but also the judiciary as a whole. The misconduct of one judge is a reflection to the public of all judges. As a judge, you swore to uphold the Constitution of Georgia and the United States. With your acceptance of your judicial office you agreed to serve the citizens of Glascock County, and the State of Georgia, with your time and talents, and that you would devote yourself diligently to the task of performing all duties of your office.

“For your conduct, you are hereby publicly reprimanded. You are furthermore cautioned that any repetition of such conduct can, and will likely, result in punishment of the severest possible nature.

“You are instructed and directed to carefully review and fully comply with each and every position of the Code of Judicial Conduct and to hereafter conduct yourself in accordance with such provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct."



Rabies virus found in fox

Fox attacks child

• Jason McGraw said the animal chased a dog into their yard and then attacked his 3-year-old daughter

By Parish Howard
Editor

A Louisville child has begun the six-shot regimen to fight the rabies virus after a fox, later found to have the disease, attacked her in her yard. “I just want parents everywhere to realize that this can happen right here in Louisville, even with you standing right there by your child,” said Jason McGraw.

“I wasn’t 10 feet away from her. And we’ve never had any problems like this before. “We were all right there, just a few feet away. It happened so fast.” It was about 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, and his wife, Wanda, and stepdaughter were under the carport while he was spreading pine straw around the back door. “My stepdaughter’s poodle, Sparkles, went to raising cane and took off into the back yard.

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There are a lot of wild cats that live out there and she’s always chasing them.

But then I happened to look up and here came the dog with this gray fox chasing after it.”

Immediately he began looking around for something to fend off the animal.

The closest item was a pool skimmer. The fox ran right between the 18-year-old’s legs, straight to his 3-year-old, Graci. It bit her on her right shin, just below the knee, the teeth on the front side of her leg breaking the skin, while leaving a bruise on the back of her calf.

Graci, herself, remembers the animal as “a daddy fox with dinosaur teeth.” “I hit it about the time it bit her,” McGraw said. His wife was running towards their crying daughter and when it let go of the child’s leg it started running towards her.

“She had to jump into the bed of the truck to get away from it,” McGraw said.

“She says it looked confused, but she doesn’t know if that’s because it was sick or because I had just hit it.” McGraw said he took two shots at the animal, but it escaped into the woods near their house near Middleground Road.

McGraw’s brother, Mitchell, formed a search party and combed the surrounding area for the fox while Graci’s family sought medical treatment.

They didn’t find it, but later that night, after Jason, Wanda and Graci returned home, a family member announced that “he’s back.” The fox had returned and was under the same carport where it had bitten Graci earlier in the day. According to Emmitt Walker, with the Public Health Division of the Georgia Department of Human Resources the bite was reported to the Jefferson County Health Department shortly after the child’s father killed the animal.

“Because of the unusual behavior the animal was exhibiting, the head of the animal was collected by Ms. Belinda Sheram, local environmentalist, and driven to a state lab in Waycross for rabies testing,” Walker said.

“Laboratory tests have confirmed that the animal was rabid.”

Walker also confirmed that the child has been placed on rabies prophylaxis.

According to her father, Graci’s first two shots were in the puncture wounds where the fox’s canine teeth broke the skin.

According to Walker, there is a direct relationship between how severe the bite is, where on the body the person is bitten, and how long it can take for symptoms to appear.

When a person is bitten, symptoms of the potentially deadly viral infection of the central nervous system could appear in as little as 14 days, however, without treatment they usually appear between 30 and 50 days after exposure.

While most people who contract the disease are bitten by a rabid animal, Walker said that “rarely, if a person has broken skin, like a scratch, which comes in contact with animal saliva full of rabies virus, that person may get infected.”

Friday afternoon, three days after the attack, McGraw said he saw another gray fox chase three stray cats out of the woods near his yard. As a precautionary measure, McGraw and his family decided to put down Sparkles, the poodle, two other family dogs and two pet cats.

“It was recommended by the health department,” he said.

“We just didn’t want to take the chance of another child getting hurt, ours, a neighbor’s or anybody else's.” Walker said that vaccination of pets and livestock is the most effective control measure to prevent the spread of the disease. “We want to thank everybody for their calls and prayers, Mitchell and the guys who went out looking for the animal and Belinda Sheram, with the health department, for all she did,” McGraw said.

The county health department is asking all residents to make sure their pets are inoculated and to report any contact of humans or pets with wild animals to the its office at (478) 625-3716.




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