Opinion

August 26, 2012

Justice denied

Murray County has a serious problem on its hands thanks to former chief magistrate Bryant Cochran.

Cochran stepped down recently after admitting that he pre-signed warrants for law enforcement officers.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission was investigating those actions along with allegations that Cochran made inappropriate sexual advances towards 36-year-old Angela Garmley of Chatsworth. Cochran’s resignation blocked the commission from holding formal hearings on those matters. But he may still face criminal charges. District Attorney Bert Poston has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to look into the matter.

If Cochran had read the U.S. Constitution he would find the Fourth Amendment guarantees that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The role of a judge is to determine whether law enforcement has probable cause before granting officers any warrant. As a judge and a former law enforcement officer himself, Cochran should have known this.

By pre-signing warrants, by not sitting in critical judgment of law enforcement before granting warrants, Cochran abrogated one of a judge’s most basic duties, denied some people one of their most basic rights and dealt a blow to our legal system.

And he may have dealt a huge blow to Murray County. Each person who was arrested or convicted based on one of those pre-signed warrants can likely demand a new trial, with the evidence collected under that warrant thrown out. And those persons may have a strong claim against the county for false arrest.

Yes, the county has insurance that may cover any civil suits filed by those individuals. Taxpayers may not have to pay the judgments in those lawsuits. But they’ll pay in the end through higher premiums.

In a statement when he resigned, Cochran accepted full responsibility for pre-signing warrants. But he doesn’t bear the full responsibility. Each law enforcement officer who accepted one of those warrants and filled it out knew that was illegal. And they did it anyway.

We do not yet know how many officers were involved or how long this was going on. But it’s difficult to believe it could have gone on for very long or involved more than one officer without others in the Murray County law enforcement community knowing about it.

Any officer, any court official, any elected official who knew about those warrants and didn’t speak out is just as responsible for them as those officers who used those warrants. They have a duty to enforce the law and uphold the Constitution and they failed to do that. They have a responsibility to speak out now and help the GBI investigation.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Mark Millican: The birds hushed their singing

    For the uninitiated, that line is from what many consider the greatest rock song of all time, “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin.

    April 15, 2014

  • Misty Watson: When blood sugar drops, anger rises

    It wouldn’t have taken 107 married couples and 21 days to figure out that being hungry makes people angry.

    April 15, 2014

  • Working for the man

    You may be one of the many Americans who will rush to file their income taxes today. But you may not yet have earned enough money to pay all of the taxes that will be imposed on you this year.

    April 15, 2014

  • Letter: The glib tongue, the fake smile

    A recent Daily Citizen column by Walter Williams will both awaken and frighten any thinking person who claims even a smidgen of knowledge about — or belief in —  either the Bible, world history or current events.

    April 15, 2014

  • College soccer team would bring local talent together

    Dreams of combining the best soccer players from all local high schools into one team finally could come true.

    April 13, 2014

  • Letter: Primaries feature many choices

    Many people are confused this year about the May 20 Election Day. Unfortunately, very few voters in Whitfield County actually go to the polls for a primary election. But this means any increase in participation can have a significant impact.

    April 12, 2014

  • Letter: Hooper for Murray chief magistrate

    Thanks to all the wonderful people and friends who backed me for District 1 Murray County Board of Education. You sure showed a lot of support. Sorry I had to step down due to my and my wife’s health. I am a lot better now.

    April 12, 2014

  • Judicial dispute could have been avoided

    Judicial elections in Whitfield and Murray counties tend to be low key. In fact, we can’t recall the last time an incumbent judge on the Conasauga Superior Court, which cover the two counties, has even faced a challenger.

    April 12, 2014

  • Citizen of the Week: Jonathan Rose

    Running for exercise is a popular hobby among many local residents, but at least one racing enthusiast plans to take his fun a step further today.

    April 11, 2014

  • Community champions make world a better place

    We sometimes think a good community is one with attractive buildings, well-kept homes and beautiful parks. But buildings, homes and parks, no matter how attractive, don’t make a community. People do.

    April 10, 2014

AP Video