All this time I'd thought U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was the frontrunner for this year's political chutzpah award.
Frank was the politician, remember, who bellowed about the lack of reforms in the financial industry even though he was the one who, just a couple of years before, ridiculed the need for reform.
But a second contender emerged right here in Georgia after a jury in Atlanta deadlocked and failed to impose the death penalty against courthouse murderer Brian Nichols.
Prominently commenting afterward was Georgia state Sen. Preston Smith, R-Rome: "This case has rocked Georgia's criminal justice system. This case has been a poster child for why there needs to be reform in the system."
Why did that take nerve? Well, Smith is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And from that position of power, he almost singlehandedly this year blocked legislation by state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, that would allow the death penalty without unanimous agreement from jurors.
In other words, when Nichols avoided the death penalty, it wasn't just the holdout jurors who rescued him. It was Smith. Yet he has the gall to now pretend that he is in favor of reform?
"I hope he's on board now," Fleming says.
Unfortunately, Fleming isn't. Oh, he's still very much in favor of allowing the death penalty in cases where a majority of jurors agree that it should be imposed. He's fought long and hard for it.
But Fleming's term in the Legislature ends Dec. 31. He ran for Congress this summer instead of running for re-election, so he'll again be a private citizen when the Legislature convenes in January.
Still, there's hope. Fleming said several lawmakers have contacted him about carrying the issue forward next session, perhaps with renewed urgency thanks to the Nichols case. He also plans to meet this week with House leaders and will discuss the issue.
And if other lawmakers pick up the ball and run with it, Smith isn't likely to stand in the way this time.
None of this will get Nichols executed. But maybe it will make it easier to execute the next multiple murderer.
One thing that shouldn't happen: Our collective disgust over a murderer missing his date with a poison needle shouldn't push us to call for a second trial by the feds.
A killer in our state is a problem of the citizens and the courts of our state. It isn't an issue for the federal government, and we should be wary of inviting federal intrusion.
I noted the other day that Georgia is defying the national trend with rising home values even as many other states are seeing their values plummet.
Monday, Business Week magazine followed up by proclaiming Martinez as the best in Georgia for home values.
"This affluent suburb of Augusta, with a median household income of $68,300, enjoys a great location for the internationally known Masters Golf tournament that takes place each spring in Augusta," the story blurb tells the rest of the world.
The magazine notes that home values in Martinez have risen by nearly 7 percent during the past five years, with median home values now at $152,344.
Worst in the state is Gainesville. Home values in the north Georgia town have dropped by nearly 22 percent just this year.
Incidentally, this should take the wind out of the sails of folks demanding a cut in property taxes because they mistakenly believe a national drop in home values applies here. Our area didn't get the highs of the real-estate bubble -- but we've been insulated from the lows as a result.
A reminder: I'm signed up this afternoon to ring the bell for the Salvation Army in front of the Evans Wal-Mart. I hope you'll drop by to say hello -- and drop some money in the kettle.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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