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March 21, 2001


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

Shar Porier
Final thoughts on flag issue

Now that I've calmed down a bit, had some time to think and talked with some of you, I have just this one last thing to say about the proposed county flag. I know that not everyone who is in favor of the flag is a racist.

Banks County Letter
Votes for 'no flag'Dear Editor:

I am a black woman and have lived in Banks County all of my life. I am a 1995 graduate of Banks County High School.


SPORTS
Tigers survive a scare at home

Commerce Outlasts Athens Aca. 11-8. The Commerce Tigers baseball team held onto a victory that almost got away against Athens Academy at home last Tuesday.

Diamond Panthers hit region slate this week
Though their season began just two weeks ago, Rusty Hendricks' Diamond Panthers will begin their long region schedule Friday with a 5:30 p.m. home game against Monroe Area. Elbert County hosts the Panthers Monday at 5:55 p.m., and Loganville comes to Jefferson next Wednesday for a 5:30 p.m. game.

Track and field takes the spotlight. Pair of middle school meets on tap Saturday. Track season has hit full swing, and if the weather will cooperate, teams from Jefferson and Jackson County will be busy cramming in several meets before Spring Break the first week of April.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY
Mac Almond resigns BOE releases allegations against former principal
Mac Almond has resigned as principal of Comer Elementary School, a post he held for the past 26 years.
The Madison County school board accepted his resignation Monday and on Tuesday school board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick released approximately 150 pages of evidence to support allegations that Almond has shown a "pattern....of personal abuse of school funds" .

We back Mac!
Large crowd shows support for long-time Comer principal

At least 300 Comer parents packed the Madison County High School library Tuesday night to support suspended Comer Elementary School principal Mac Almond.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
Missing child found in woods near grandparents' home
A 5-year-old child was missing for several hours Friday before being found in the woods near his grandparents' home in Banks County.
Some 25 men from the Banks County sheriff's office, fire department and emergency medical service (EMS) gathered at the home of Bill and Carole Jackson on Cates Bridge Road to search for their missing 5-year-old grandson, Griffin.

More than 500,000 gallons of water lost when vandals open hydrants across Banks County
Banks County lost more than 500,000 gallons of water over the weekend after vandals opened fire hydrants across the county.
Banks County water employees and firemen were kept busy Saturday night, trying to keep up with vandals who were opening fire hydrants across the county.


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Cochran guilty of murder
Sentenced to life without parole
Emory Wayne Cochran was found guilty of murder by a Jackson County jury Saturday afternoon.
The jury found Cochran guilty on counts of felony murder, malice murder, burglary and aggravated assault after a little more than one hour of deliberation Saturday afternoon. The jury deliberated for almost three hours over the sentencing with the death penalty, life without parole and life with the possibility of parole the options. District attorney Tim Madison had asked for the death penalty in the murder of Kimberly Warren.
The sentence was affirmed by Superior Court Judge Bob Adamson at 9:20 p.m. Saturday, after a long day of court that began at 8 a.m. The trial lasted four days and the jury had been sequestered since Wednesday.



Trial begins for December 1998 murder case. Jury sequestered as Wayne Cochran goes on trial for murder of Kimberly Warren. A 12-member jury was selected Wednesday and opening arguments were given in the murder trial of Emory Wayne Cochran, who is charged in the December 1998 murder of Kimberly Warren.
Security has been tight at the courthouse in Jefferson this week for the death penalty case, with more than 10 deputies present at times. A metal detector has been set up for those entering the courthouse. Those who enter are also not allowed to take purses or other personal belongings into the courtroom.
Cochran was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary in the Dec. 8, 1998, death of Kimberly Warren.
Cochran is suspected of being the triggerman in the murder of Mrs. Warren, who was killed near her home on Eagle Lane in North Jackson. Her body was found in her car a short distance from her house. She had been shot several times and the car had rolled into a creek at the bottom of an embankment.
The jurors, along with two alternates, will be sequestered during the course of the trial. Some 90 potential jurors were questioned Monday and Tuesday with 50 named as a "qualified panel" and asked to report Wednesday morning with their luggage.
Before the jurors were named Wednesday, Cochran's attorney, Walter Harvey, called for a mistrial due to a bumper sticker with a phrase about murder that was parked at the side entrance of the courthouse during jury questioning earlier this week.
Judge Robert "Bob" Adamson denied the motion after asking the jurors how many noticed the bumper sticker. He made note of the names of all 19 members who had seen the bumper sticker. He also asked if seeing the bumper sticker had caused them to form an opinion about the case. No one responded that it had. He also individually asked each person if they would be able to put the bumper sticker aside if called as a juror. All responded that they would. The judge also said that he had asked that the bumper sticker be removed.
The judge also asked the potential jurors if any had seen lapel pins or buttons relating to the case. No one had seen these items.
It was around 10:15 a.m. Wednesday when the jurors selected were called to the stand and the others were allowed to leave. Those selected were allowed to make one phone call notifying family members that they had been selected. Court officials escort the jurors to their meals and they are housed at an area motel.
While the jurors were making calls and their luggage was being sent to where they will be housed, Harvey made another motion. He asked the judge that the 17 photos of the victim that the state intends to present not be allowed. Harvey said that the cause of death is not an issue. He added that the photos would be "overkill" and "prejudicial."
"They have no relevant purpose in proving this defendant committed this crime," he said. "...The intent is to appeal to the emotion of the jury."
District attorney Tim Madison said that the state has 30 pictures and has eliminated any duplicates. He said those used will show the separate bullet wounds.
The judge denied Harvey's motion, but he did require the state to identify any photographs to the judge and defense before they are displayed. The judge said he called for this so that the "court can review each photograph in context of the trial."
On another matter, Harvey said there is a conflict because his law partner represented a witness who will be called. He said it would be a conflict of interest for him to question the witness and asked that the man not be allowed to testify.
The judge said that he had already ruled denying this motion and that Harvey would have to make a showing before the witness is called as to any specific relevant knowledge he has gained and the source. He added that he would not change his ruling at this time.
The trial began at 11:15 and Harvey and Madison made opening statements before lunch. In Madison's 15-minute remarks, he spoke of the victim and her husband and their move to Jackson County from DeKalb County. He said they moved to the country to get away from the city and build their dream home. Photographs of the home were shown on an overhead projector. He also spoke of an alleged crime spree Cochran had been on during the time the murder occurred. He also told jurors to keep in mind one piece of evidence­a pillow case found at the crime scene used to put items to be stolen in. He said it didn't belong to the victim and had the initials "A.J.S." on it. He also mentioned a dog that was inside the home when the burglary occurred and dog hairs found on clothing belonging to Cochran. He also said the suspects were "professional burglars" and wore gloves and used burglary tools.
Madison also spoke on details of the crime and how Warren confronted the burglars and was shot four times in the head with a .380 automatic pistol. He said the first bullet went into her neck and the others were shot after the car began to roll backwards.
During Harvey's 20-minute opening remarks, he asked the jurors to remember Madison's remarks and listen during the trial for any "hard evidence."
"The evidence will show that Wayne Cochran is not guilty," he said. "...We expect there to be no evidence, hard evidence, to tie Wayne Cochran to the crime scene...Since they can not tie him with physical evidence to the crime scene, what they intend to do is introduce a rogue's gallery of characters...You will meet some interesting characters...People that live in a substrata of our society that some people never dream existed."
Harvey said that Cochran is also a "character."
"Wayne Cochran has been in and out of prison for most of his adult life," he said. "...Wayne used drugs...He would steal...There was no evidence to tie him to a murder. He is a character. He's not a killer."
Harvey said the only evidence the state has is from "jail house, stool-pigeon testimony."
"The evidence they have is testimony from those people in the rogue's gallery," he said.
Harvey also asked the jurors not to let the state's intent to seek the death penalty not "overburden" them.
"You can't put that fact out of your mind, but you can look at this case like any other," he said. "
Harvey also referred to the comments made by Madison about the dog hair. He said the home where Cochran was arrested has three dogs in it and that he was often in contact with dogs.
EARLIER TRIAL
In May 1999, Cheryl Gossitt was sentenced to life in prison for her part of the Warren murder. She didn't testify during her trial, but more than three hours of taped interrogation conducted by law enforcement officers was played. The tapes revealed that Gossitt initially confessed to being at the scene of the murder, but she later recanted those statements. She also implicated Cochran during these interviews.


Zoning Foes Win In Nicholson ElectionWheeler, Kitchens Win Council Seats -- Voters in Nicholson braved gusting winds and driving rain Tuesday to reject the concept of zoning in a special city council election.
With a turnout of 42 percent, voters chose anti-zoning candidates Chuck Wheeler and Billy Kitchens form a field of seven to serve terms for the rest of the year. They fill the unexpired terms of Daniel Sailors and Stanley Fouche, who resigned last fall to seek other offices.
Wheeler led the field with 108 votes and Kitchens was right behind with 107. James Kesler ran third with 101 votes, followed by David Crawford with 59, Deborah Moore with 30, Daniel Sailors with 27 and Sandra Sailors with 26.
Wheeler and Kitchens will be sworn in at the April 2 regular city council meeting, said Mayor Ronnie Maxwell.
The election of two anti-zoning candidates is a victory for Maxwell, who was elected mayor in November after running an an anti-zoning platform. With council members Margaret Ward and Thomas Gary committed to implementing a zoning ordinance that has been drafted over the past two years and with Wheeler and Kitchens opposed, the matter is effectively defeated ­ although there will be new elections in November.
HAYNIE WINS IN ARCADE
In Arcade, mayor pro tem Doug Haynie easily defeated Billy Gurley, 96-36, in a special election for mayor.
BANKS PASSES SPLOST
Banks County voters, in a very low turnout, approved a special purpose local option sales tax to fund jail, roads, recreation and fire and emergency medical services. The vote was 732-82.


New Sewer Line Route Crosses Land Of Chairman's Wife
The wife of the chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority could find her property more valuable after the authority voted to reroute a controversial sewer line across her land.
Trying to mollify some of the landowners opposing a line running from the old Texfi treatment plant on the Winder Highway to Mulberry Plantation, the authority voted to request that the project engineer move 3,000 feet of the Doster Creek Outfall Line across the Middle Oconee River.
That move would take the line off five parcels on the south side of the river to the land of Martha Bryan, wife of chairman Alex Bryan, on the north side. The owners on the south side are all opposed to having the line on their property.
The action took place last Thursday night in a called meeting of the authority.
"I will say this about our chairman," advised vice chairman Tom Crow, who presided over the authority's discussion of the issue after Bryan recused himself. "Even though this is going to probably benefit him, he was wanting to keep this in the original place because all the landowners along that line would be able to access this."
Engineer Bob Sutton said the change would take the line up the north side of the river, cross to the south side, then cross again to go up Doster Creek. Though the route will take the line through a swamp, the cost will be virtually the same as the original proposal, he said.
Elton Collins made a motion to have the engineers design the line along the new route. It passed 4-0, with Bryan not participating in the vote or even present during the discussion.
While the proposal may have satisfied five property owners, others along the route continue their opposition. Susan Phillips, who said she spoke for the "Dosters Creek Landowners and Preservation Association," argued that the project would "without a doubt devalue our land," referred to "previous questionable deals" made by the authority, and said the project would "encourage developers."
Phillips was the only one who spoke publicly in opposition at the meeting. Her mother is one of three property owners along the proposed route who has not signed an agreement allowing surveyors and assessors on their land, according to Jerry Waddell, superintendent.
On a motion by Larry Joe Wood, the authority voted to proceed with a court hearing ­ once Waddell has spoken a final time with landowners still refusing access ­ at which the court will hear citizens' arguments as to why the authority should not be allowed on their property. It is anticipated that the result of those hearings will be a court verification of the authority's right to go on the land to survey and conduct assessments.



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County Movers And Shakers
To Brainstorm Over FutureJackson County's top leaders will gather in May to brainstorm over the county's future.
Participants will include members of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, the Industrial Development Authority, Water and Sewerage Authority and possibly other groups, including some municipal leaders.
Pepe Cummings, president of the chamber, briefed his board of directors last Friday on the developing plans, date, time and place and participants of which have yet to be finalized.
Cummings asked his board to let him know of "critical items" that should be discussed.
"You go back and think about it and let me know before the April meeting," Cummings said.
The retreat has been endorsed by the board of commissioners. Original participants were to include the IDA, water and sewer authority members, commissioners and representatives of the chamber. But there is also talk, Cummings said, about inviting representatives of other groups, such as city governments and school boards.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for this county if this can be used as a forum for all of the shareholders involved in the issues and the planning for this county," noted chairman Randall Pugh. "Economic development has got to be right at the top of the list as far as the chamber is concerned."
Elton Collins, who also serves on the water and sewerage authority, said his group needs input on how the county's new sewage treatment capacity should be allocated between residential and commercial and industrial customers.
"We need some guidance in this area," Collins stated.
Cummings pointed out that each municipality has a representative on the chamber's board of directors (most of them never attend the board meetings).
"It's quickly becoming clear that we could have multiple separate retreats," he observed. "We really want to get down to the priority items."
Member Keith Ariail (also a member of the water and sewerage authority) proposed that some attention be given to finding "a formula to keep the good businesses we've got ­ to do whatever it takes to keep them."
Harold Fletcher, chairman of the board of commissioners, stated that any consensus arrived at by the group would make his job easier.
"When you start advocating a course of direction, it's always good to have that direction validated by other organizations," he said. "It makes our job a lot easier."
Director Tom Plank suggested it would "help the citizens of the county if it comes out that everybody is working together and has one goal."
But past president Jim Shaw noted that the public is not always that interested.
"Time after time, they have had the opportunity to give input, and there hasn't been any," Shaw said.


Developer fined for violation of soil ordinance. A Jackson County developer has been fined for violating the county soil erosion ordinance.
Wendall Butler was fined $2,000 in Jackson County Magistrate Court for mud being in streets and not being cleared up in the Stone Creek development in West Jackson.
In other news from magistrate court, several people have been fined for littering. County director of planning and development David Clabo said the county has been able to crack down on littering due to two county marshals being on duty. See the legal page for more details on these violations.


County seeks citizens to serve on dangerous dog control board
County manager Skip Nalley is seeking names of countians to serve on a board to hear dangerous dog complaints.
Jackson County commissioner Emil Beshara asked at Monday night's meeting that a proposed list of names be submitted at the April meeting for review. He said that state law and county ordinances call for a board to be in place to hear these complaints.
Beshara said that a dangerous dog complaint has been filed in the county in recent weeks and a board needs to be in place to hear it. County attorney Daniel Haygood said that the BOC would hear the complaints if a board has not been named.
A dangerous dog is one that has bitten a person, Beshara said. He added that the dangerous dog control board would determine whether a bite has occurred and whether it is minor or serious. Those cases declared minor would lead to the dog being declared "potentially dangerous." Dog bites leaving serious injuries would label the dog as "dangerous" and the owner would be required to confine it or make sure it is on a leash. The owner could also be fined for not abiding by the ordinance.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Jackson Herald.