Judges respond to Fulton County violence - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Judges respond to Fulton County violence

Albany- Shots fired at the Fulton County Courthouse didn't directly affect anyone at the Dougherty County Courthouse, but it's an event that concerns all judges.

"There have been cases where people, their emotions have gotten out of hand, or they wanted to scuffle or tussle with a deputy before and they've been able to get it under control," said Superior Court Judge Steve Goss.

The potential for courtroom violence keeps judges and bailiffs on constant guard. Local judges say there are safety precautions in place.

"All of the persons in custody are brought by the Sheriff's staff to the court, and remain in shackles until they're brought into the courtroom," said Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette.

Depending on the severity of the crime a suspect can remain restrained in the courtroom, but often this is done out of the jury's sight so not to infringe on the suspect's rights.

"We make sure there's a clear division between the parties, even to the point of having them enter and exit at different times so as to try and avoid any interaction between them," said Lockette.

"If a knife is a piece of evidence in a case for example, we make sure that it doesn't get laid, that it isn't staying around in the common area of the courtroom. We try and make sure that deputies have control of things like that at all times," said Goss.

In Georgia, District attorneys and Assistants are permitted to carry a gun. D-A Ken Hodges says, there was a time when he carried a gun, but doesn't anymore.

"I'm still careful about what I do. I still have firearms that I have in places where I can get to them if I need them and I rely on court security, because I certainly don't want to have happen to me what happened to Judge Barns today," said Ken Hodges, District Attorney.

And ultimately judges say, despite the dangers they'll carry on.

"We have a job to do, and the court system must do what it's set up to do and can't be sort of intimidated or railroaded into not functioning," said Goss.

posted by jennifer.emert@walb.com


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