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Pre-emptive strike in jury

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rebecca Sears and her son Christopher Bowers are guests of the taxpayers at the Columbia County Detention Center. It looks like we'll be feeding and housing them there for quite a while.

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Jacque and Victor Hawk, representing Sears and Bowers, respectively, say they plan to present evidence that the duo didn't kill Kay Parsons March 25.

Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet denied the attorneys' request last week to let Sears and Bowers out of jail, but Overstreet said he'll allow another bond hearing when they come back to court for a preliminary hearing scheduled next Wednesday.

Just one problem: There might not be a preliminary hearing. There's a strong chance that Augusta District Attorney Ashley Wright will take Sears' and Bowers' case to the Columbia County Grand Jury for indictment this week, which means there won't be a preliminary hearing.

Why? Well, as one attorney explains, grand jury proceedings are secret and the defense doesn't take part. However, defense attorneys have a role in preliminary hearings, and the public proceedings can sometimes provide the defense with ammunition to use later.

Say, if a cop misspeaks during the preliminary hearing, he can expect his words to be used during the trial - if for no other reason than to make the jury think the cops' stories are inconsistent.

By going for an indictment now, the preliminary hearing is moot. Not to worry: If this is a death penalty case, there will be hearings out the wazoo before it ever gets to trial. That likely will include motions to move the trial somewhere else because of all the publicity. Including this.

I don't think it will ever get that far. I predict keep-that-needle-away-from-me plea-bargaining before the case ever reaches that point.

Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if Sears and Bowers are guests of the taxpayers for a long, long time.

Death to Davis

Speaking of long-time guests of taxpayers, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has again agreed Troy Davis deserves the death penalty.

Good. Davis has become a media- and celebrity-darling mini-version of Mumia Abu Jamal, who also was on death row for killing a cop in Philadelphia. Abu Jamal recently lost yet another appeal in his case, but long ago was taken off death row. He'll still die in prison, just more slowly.

Davis, however, remains on death row for killing a Savannah cop in 1989. (That's right: We've been housing and feeding this murderer for 20 years. Did he even send you a Christmas card?)

Davis' attorneys have tried to get a new trial based on his contention that during that 20 years, several witnesses in the original trial have developed fuzzy memories.

But the Court of Appeals last week said Davis' "new" evidence isn't compelling, and that a jury likely still would have found him guilty.

This hearing came about after Davis' date with the needle was delayed for the third time. His last chance at staying alive longer is a successful hearing with the U.S. Supreme Court, which likely will refuse to hear the case and send him to the gurney.

By the way: Back when Georgia used the electric chair, the device was called "Old Sparky." Should we come up with a catchy nickname for the lethal injection needle, like Old Pokey? Or Mr. Squirty?

In any event, be prepared: When Davis' long-overdue date with death comes at last, expect the same BS-and-baloney allegations from the usual anti-death-penalty suspects contending that Davis is being "railroaded" by a "racist" justice system.

That's the same system that has given him a fair trial and multiple delays and appeals more than two decades after he gunned down 27-year-old Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, a former Army Ranger, in cold blood.

Heck, they'll probably even have the same old hackneyed candlelight vigils for Davis, though I doubt anyone but MacPhail's family and fellow officers will even remember to light a candle for him.

Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal@newstimesonline.com.



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