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OPINION PAGE - JUNE 30, 1999 - HOMER, GEORGIA

Column
Angela Gary
The Banks County News- June 30, 1999

A front row seat
to the good and bad

No one really wants to take a front row seat as the intimate details of a violent relationship filled with domestic disputes unfolds. Some people may say they want to know every detail, but sitting inside a courtroom as tales of terror and abuse come to life is not an enjoyable experience. I love to read murder mysteries, but it's different when it is real.
For seven days, including an early Saturday morning, I traveled to Monroe to cover a double murder trial. The first week, I logged 65 hours as I covered the trial and handled my other work duties. The next week, I had 45 hours in by Wednesday night. Needless to say, it was a stressful week.
Of course, my stress was nothing compared to that of the families of the victims and the defendant who traveled to Walton County each day for the trial. I feel guilty even mentioning my stress because it pales as I think of the families of the victims who have suffered so much since the deaths of their loved ones.
Many people have asked me what it is like covering such a trial as the one I went to last week. It is hard to put into words the emotional, tense atmosphere of a murder trial. Many tears flowed during the week-including from family members of the victims and defendant, the jurors, law enforcement officers and even the reporter covering the trial.
There weren't many dry eyes in the courtroom when the victims' families spoke on how their lives have changed since the 1997 murders. The reading of the verdict and the sentencing were also emotional moments for many in the courtroom. Several jurors wept as they left the courtroom after recommending a death sentence.
I started to cry as I pulled out of Monroe and headed for home on the last day of the trial. I didn't know why I was crying, but I didn't stop until I reached Jefferson. Maybe it was for the families who went home once again without a daughter, sister, brother, father, mother....Maybe it was for the families of the defendant who have to face a verdict and a sentence that they didn't want to hear. Maybe it is for the jurors who had to hand down a sentence that no one wants to even if they believe without a doubt that it is the thing to do. Maybe I was even crying for the family member who yelled harsh words at me as I left the courtroom for lunch one day. The words stung at the time, but the anger is certainly understandable and we often lash out at the first person we see. Or maybe I was just exhausted and I didn't want to think about murder any more.
I don't know why I cried, but I know it is impossible to remain dry-faced as these tragedies unfold. I never take sides in an issue, no matter how many times I am accused of it. People who say, "The paper always takes sides," don't know what they are talking about. I take this as a personal insult.
I just go and write what happens at meetings and trials. I filled two large notebooks during the seven days of the trial and wrote my story from them. I only wrote down what was said. I didn't add my opinions or thoughts. It's not the story I wanted to write. I would rather have been writing about a vacation or a local teenager who did something honorable. Instead, I have to write about the good and bad that goes on in our communities. I have to see the worst side of human nature, along with the best side. It's not always fun but it is something that has to be done.
Angela Gary is associate editor of The Jackson Herald and editor of The Banks County News.

Editorial
The Banks County News
June 30, 1999

Have a safe and
happy July 4th

Everyone loves fireworks and the Fourth of July is the time when they light up skies all across the United States. Banks Countians are fortunate each year to have a special fireworks display put on in Homer.
The Homer Fire Department will host the fireworks display on Sunday, July 4, at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Hwy. 51 across from the Banks County Primary School. The event is sponsored through donations from Banks County residents, merchants and the town of Homer.
This is always a special time of fellowship and fun. So everyone needs to bring a chair or blanket and enjoy the fireworks.
It is also important to remember that it is illegal to put on your own private fireworks show. Fireworks can be dangerous and should only be handled by someone who is trained in their use.


Domestic violence
Domestic violence is a problem that impacts everyone in a community. It erodes the family structure, causing problems in the schools which have to deal with children from abusive backgrounds. It also puts strains on law enforcement officers and agencies which have to deal with the volatile situations.
Often in these cases a victim is afraid to testify for fear of being hurt more or even killed. These domestic situations fill our crime pages each week. However, more and more across the state, law enforcement officers are making arrests despite the victims backing down. We support this and hope it continues.
One has to only look in nearby Jackson County to see what happens when domestic violence continues in a relationship. Almost 10 years of reported violence ended in 1997 when two people were murdered. The victim had made numerous reports of violence over the years but always backed down when it came time to testify.
Let's hope this doesn't happen again. Through more public awareness of the problem and the continued effort of law enforcement officers to proceed with arrests, we may avoid similar situations in the future.

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