On Native Ground
DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST? NOT YET
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- This wasn't the first time Brian Nichols was in the same courtroom facing these same charges. His girlfriend of eight years accused him of assault and rape; he was brought to trial but the jury couldn't reach a decision, forcing the judge to declare a hung jury. No verdict!
What was that all about? Was he an aggressive rapist or was his accuser "a woman scorned," like whom "Hell hath no fury?" The jury couldn't decide. Nevertheless, he was heading into court again to face the same charges for that violent, heinous crime after not having been out on bail. Consider stir-crazy as part of his mindset.
Since it would not be fair to prejudice the jury by appearing in orange togs, since we're innocent until proven guilty, Nichols was allowed to change out of prison garb and into civilian clothes before entering the courtroom, guarded only by a 50-year old female deputy, described as "petite" - alone, but armed with a gun.
This was a man in protective custody. Whose? Does the law protect him while he is in custody; or, are we being protected from him by putting him into custody?
There were cameras focused on every area of Brian Nichols' trip to the courthouse, but the room where the action took place had noone monitoring the device that taped what was transpiring. Oh, but they're viewing the tape now and that sharp 20/20 hindsight shows them how blind they were, and careless.
Here was a prisoner who wasn't sure what the next 20 minutes would mean to the rest of his life. This trial was to be a repeat of the first, supposedly with stronger evidence against him. Did he plan the break? Did he only have one guard the first time around? Did he calculate when the possible windows of opportunity would come?
Nichols was in jail long enough to hear what possibilities exist. Conversations in the jailhouse are almost restricted to "beatin' the rap," and "ways to get outa here." Being cunning is more likely to be successful than being hasty and aggressive. That is what he would learn from all he heard.
One man might look at this and spend time analyzing what Brian Nichols did to perpetrate this crime, in which a judge is shot dead, a court reporter is dead, another dead, and the deputy he escaped from in the hospital is in serious condition. Before Nichols surrendered, he allegedly left a trail of dead and injured, including an immigration officer 15 miles from where it all ended, with the safe and uneventful arrest of the man touted as creating the largest manhunt in Georgia history, and quite possibly national history.
Through a good part of last year, actor Bill Cosby was berating black parents for neglecting their duties in raising their children. He said:
"Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other n------ as they're walking up and down the street - they think they're hip," the entertainer said. "They can't read; they can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere."
But that stereotype Cosby is so outspokenly furious about does not point to Brian Nichols. Nichols is not a man who fell through the cracks or went off the deep end. He is a clean, sober, articulate, educated athlete from a good family who grabbed a wide open opportunity to escape what would have been a 50/50 chance of going free at his retrial and run for his life through the streets of Atlanta looking for better odds.
This is not to excuse what he has done; he will pay for that hasty move. But, I strongly condemn those who allowed it to happen and whose only excuse has been "I'm new on the job."
All day the news has been about security for the judges in the courtroom and questioning if we're doing enough. Should judges carry guns, they ask. We're supposed to e-mail our suggestions for consideration by the experts. What experts? This tragedy was not a matter of whether the judge was secure on the bench but how the duty roster for the day listed only one deputy for such a formidable task.
There was a time when there were height and weight requirements for a police officer. Of course, that was discriminatory since some short men and even some short women wanted to serve in that capacity. We've relinquished our common sense in the name of being politically correct. We do not discriminate. Period.
It would be just plain common sense to match Nichols pound for pound and inch for inch before leading him out of his jail cell. But, since the female deputy could shoot a gun like any man, there was no reason not to give the assignment. It made it all the more easy for Nichols to lunge at the "petite" officer and overpower her. It's all on the tape.
Discipline will be meted out; probably life imprisonment for Brian Nichols, a few days suspension for the guards assigned to watch the footage the surveillance camera caught.
The excuse of only being in office three months is beneath contempt. The man in charge claimed he "inherited a problem that had been in existence for some time." Some time? Crime and punishment have been in existence since Cain slew Abel.
Two days before these incidents they discovered two "shanks" in Nichol's shoes. There are long days in a jail cell, plenty of time to spend filing down a door hinge into these improvised knives. That was a clue. Additional security was ordered. The entire system was aware that a time bomb was coming into court that day. Then, how did they miss the sizzling fuse?