Thursday, June 18, 2009

18 JUN 09: Return to the Scene of the Crime

Don't you wonder how long it had been since Ken Hodges stopped in Columbus? Given the lack of respect some local leaders have developed for him, I wouldn't be surprised if he moved from Albany to Atlanta last year via Tifton and Macon.

Ken Hodges came back to Columbus Wednesday because of his latest potential job change. The former Dougherty County District Attorney is running for Georgia Attorney General - and he's already proving to be different from the current Attorney General. Thurbert Baker wouldn't even speak for himself in TV campaign commercials.

But people with long memories know Ken Hodges carries some baggage in Columbus. Thurbert Baker appointed him as a special prosecutor over the killing of Kenneth Walker - and Hodges's presentation to a grand jury around Thanksgiving 2004 ended with no indictment. Well, check that. Civil rights leaders verbally indicted Hodges for fouling up the case.

Ken Hodges admitted to WRBL Wednesday he made a "technical mistake" before the grand jury five years ago. That was NOT having former deputy David Glisson testify under oath, about his actions which led to Kenneth Walker's death. Hodges may call it a "technical mistake," but civil rights leaders declared it a flagrant-two foul.

Ken Hodges explained he didn't put David Glisson under oath because it was "rare for law enforcement officers to go before a grand jury." I thought those officers were supposed to expose criminal hideouts, not create their own in law offices.

In a separate interview, Ken Hodges told the Ledger-Enquirer he was surprised that the Muscogee County grand jury didn't indict David Glisson for shooting Kenneth Walker. Based on last year's campaign, we now know former Sheriff Ralph Johnson was surprised as well. Someday Glisson's attorney might be willing to admit the same thing.

It wasn't mentioned during the Ken Hodges interview, but the grand jury must have heard David Glisson's statements in 2004 - and oath or not, they still didn't indict anybody. Would the two words "I do" really have changed the outcome? It doesn't seem to work with a lot of marriages....

Civil rights leaders seized on the lack of an oath to demand a second grand jury review of the Kenneth Walker case. Ken Hodges says he would have granted that request IF anyone had come forward with new evidence. Putting the dashboard video through extra-slow motion "Super Vision" from CBS Sports simply wasn't good enough.

Perhaps it's no surprise that the Ken Hodges campaign web site doesn't mention Kenneth Walker at all. But civil rights leaders probably won't be surprised by another section of the site - the one saying Hodges "believes in the broad support of law enforcement."

Ken Hodges actually said in one interview he wants to give Georgians confidence in the criminal justice system. Yet his handling of the Kenneth Walker case left large numbers of Columbus residents with exactly the opposite feeling. Their trust for law officers extends about as far as a stun gun's range.

Ken Hodges held several meetings with groups of Columbus attorneys Wednesday, undoubtedly seeking their support in next year's campaign. But I can't see Hodges doing well among Muscogee County Democrats until he's endorsed by African-American lawyers -- and you may have noticed after the Walker shooting, they barely even spoke up for Thurbert Baker.

By the way, I was stunned to read at the newspaper web site that Ken Hodges's mother lives in Harris County. So maybe he does visit Columbus more often that I realized. He probably visits very carefully, but he visits....

Let's see what else received our care and concern on Wednesday:

+ Columbus had its hottest day so far this summer, with a high of 94 degrees F. Didn't an e-mailer warn us about this several weeks ago? [22 May] We've gone from San Francisco weather to Death Valley weather - and without even breaking down on a deserted two-lane highway.

+ Cessna Aircraft announced its next round of budget cuts will mean 40 layoffs in Columbus. It also will mean the closing of a building in the Muscogee Technology Park which opened only last year. Would the new NCR employees like an extra-large lunchroom?

+ Wal-Mart executives cut a ribbon for their newly-renovated store on Buena Vista Road. The manager told WLTZ the two-million dollar makeover allows for more items to be sold - such as eggs. I didn't realize Columbus South was this deprived, and close to starvation.

(Wal-Mart managers add future expansion is possible at the Buena Vista Road store. Simply wait a couple of years, until their food prices run Winn-Dixie next door out of business.)

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported the Springer Opera House marked "Dot Day," in honor of Dot McClure. The widow of Chuck McClure helped save the theater from destruction. So why didn't she intervene again, to rescue McClure Broadcasting's WRCG?

+ Three photographers were arrested on Tybee Island, near the filming site for Miley Cyrus's next movie. What is this, Tehran or something? How else is TMZ going to report to the world about what Cyrus eats for lunch?

+ Instant Message to my neighbor four doors down: You're kidding. You have cable TV?! I thought you put up that 13-foot-tall double-decker birdhouse in the courtyard because you couldn't pick up a couple of stations.

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