By Scott Ballard District Attorney
March 8, 2014
By now, you know how I love to see new prosecutors develop. This week in Griffin, that’s exactly what happened.
Charlie Stern is our youngest lawyer. And last week he tried his first case.
Ideally, that would be something simple. But, we don’t live in an ideal world. Charlie’s first case involved multiple crimes of aggravated battery on different victims and even an armed robbery.
To make matters worse, our witnesses kept disappearing.
This is becoming a growing problem, especially in Griffin. Witnesses move away and don’t tell us where they’ve moved. They hide from us. They change their stories. Sometimes, when we find them, they are in a distant prison.
This time it appears that persons affiliated with the defendant had threatened our witnesses. So, stories changed. People hid from us. We sent our folks to the house of one victim. She was in the shower, but promised to meet us at the courthouse soon. Our folks left and so did she—in the opposite direction.
So, Charlie, in his first trial, called a witness to testify. We had to tell him she wasn’t present. Many lawyers would wilt. Not Charlie. Undeterred, he called the next witness. This happened a few times in a single morning. At one point, after being told that the witness he needed was absent, he quipped, “Well, I call to the stand anybody that is here.”
The defendant looked pretty smug at this point. But, what he didn’t know is that we don’t put up with such junk. There were some forces he wasn’t expecting.
One was Marie Broder. She’s one of our prosecutors. She wouldn’t back down from a cobra. She whipped up a motion to have the witness arrested and brought to court.
The next force was Judge Fletcher Sams. Only an idiot would trifle with him. He gladly signed the papers.
The final blow to the defendant’s hopes came from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office. By nightfall they had our witness. She was safe. And the next day, when Charlie called her name, she was present.
Game, set, match. The jury convicted on nine of the 12 counts. One was the armed robbery. The sentence was life plus 50 years.
Charlie Stern will certainly try many cases throughout his career. But, it will be hard to top his first.