In less than three weeks, we will elect people to fill some of the most important positions in our state and nation. And while they are obviously all important, some will argue that judgeships and those who appoint or confirm judges are the most important.
We only have to look at our own communities to realize that this is true.
Last year the United States Supreme Court ruled that Troy Davis, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail, be granted an evidentiary hearing to determine if alleged recantations by trial witnesses could lead to new evidence of Davis’ innocence.
The evidentiary hearing was held earlier this summer and served to re-open old wounds in a community that, despite repeated efforts from many to keep the case in the forefront, has valiantly attempted to move on from this travesty.
Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Christopher Lucas, tried and sentenced to life in prison for the 1987 murder of his son-in-law Randy Kicklighter, be granted an appeal of his conviction. Lucas contends that prosecutors withheld evidence, including DNA that he was not aware of at the time of the trial.
A hearing will now be held, subjecting the surviving family members of the victim to more torment while providing the convicted murderer with another day in court.
“It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one.” Voltaire
One of the many great things about our country is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. We believe this and make every effort to assure that justice is carried out, however distasteful and sometimes appalling it may be.
No one wants an innocent man or woman to be in prison and certainly not to be sentenced to death. Even the mother of Randy Kicklighter, while still trying to comprehend the latest news of her son’s convicted murderer being granted another appeal, acknowledged this.
And, although rare, sometimes new evidence can change the results of a case. In my six years of serving in the state legislature, we have had two instances where convicted prisoners have been proven innocent and granted financial compensation from the state for their wrongful incarceration. God forbid that this should ever happen to anyone.
“To be a victim is an unforgettable nightmare but to become a victim at the hands of the criminal justice system is an unforgivable travesty.” Anonymous
Many victims’ rights groups believe that we have crossed the line and that the criminal justice system does not pay enough attention to victims and their families.
I don’t know the Mark MacPhail family. I can only imagine what the son who grew up not knowing his father has suffered through and continues to suffer through every time this is brought up.
However, I do know the Kicklighter family. I remember the morning Randy was killed and I remember going to the funeral. I remember what Randell and Bessie were like before their son was killed and I know what their life has been like since he was murdered. Every time this is brought up it opens an old wound and the hurt begins all over again.
On the Nov. 2 ballot we will elect a member of the Georgia State Supreme Court as well as three members of the state Court of Appeals. Across our state there will be seventy nine Superior Court Judges and District Attorneys up for election. We will also elect a United States Senator who will vote on Supreme Court nominees.
These are the people who carry out our judicial process and whose judgment and interpretation of the law can influence the process.
I encourage you to study the candidates carefully and to pay close attention to their qualifications and views. You can access information on the candidates at http://www.sos.ga.gov/elections.
Our judicial system needs good and honest people serving as judges and it’s up to us to elect them.