Pubdate: Mon, 04 Jul 2005
Source: Andalusia Star-News ( AL )
Copyright: 2005 The Andalusia Star-News
Author: Kim Henderson
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Behind the veneer of a petite young woman with a gracious smile and 
soft voice, Grace Jeter must display characteristics of steel.

In the line of work she's chosen, that's a given.

Jeter is Covington County's newest prosecutor, working for the 
District Attorney in the 22nd Judicial Circuit.

"The reason I went into the legal system was because my mother is a 
lawyer," the local prosecutor explained.  "She went to law school 
when I was three years old.  She is my hero."

Grace's mother, Lucie McLemore, has been a great inspiration 
throughout the Montgomery native's journey.

"My grandfather -- his name was Kenneth Underwood -- he was a 
lawyer," Grace added.  "He has always supported me in everything I've 
tried to do."

The 31-year-old mother graduated from the prestigious Cumberland Law 
School in 1999.

After achieving her degree and license to practice law in the State 
of Alabama, Grace began working for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 
the state's capitol city.

"I was hired by Judge Bucky McMillan ...  " Grace explained.  "I 
worked for him for four years with my background in criminal law, so 
prosecution was a good field for me.

"It was just a good jump to make," she conceded.

Grace joined the team at the local DA's office in November 2004.

In those months, she's handled a full plate of prosecutorial duties.

Most recently, Jeter won a felony drug case -- tried Tuesday June 28 
in Circuit Judge M.  Ashley McKathan's court.

"This week, I tried Patrick Stackhouse for first degree Possession of 
Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Promoting Prison 
Contraband.  He was convicted of all three counts," she said during 
an interview last Friday.

Stackhouse, 25, of Opp, was convicted by a five-woman, seven-man jury 
following a one-day trial.

According to the DA's office, the jury deliberated for only about 10 
minutes before returning guilty verdicts on the drug charges.

"Stackhouse was convicted for bringing marijuana into the Covington 
County Jail on April 23, 2004, while he was participating in the work 
release program," a statement from District Attorney Greg Gambril's 
office relays about Jeter's last case.

"Due to a previous conviction for possession of marijuana for his 
personal use, Stackhouse was charged with felony possession of 
marijuana, along with the other offenses," the statement continued.

Stackhouse was found guilty of bringing marijuana into the local jail 
after coming back into the facility from his work release 
duties.  Former Corrections Officer Dustin Wheeler testified that 
Stackhouse was found to be in possession of a plastic bag containing 
drugs when the officer noticed the marijuana in Stackhouse's shoe 
while he was changing from "civilian clothing into county-issued clothing."

On the two Class C felony charges, Stackouse could receive a sentence 
of up to 10 years imprisonment on each count.  In addition, for 
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class A Misdemeanor, the local 
man could receive up to one year in jail.

Stackhouse will receive his sentence in August.

Prior to achieving a conviction against Stackhouse, Jeter tried 
Gillis Lane -- also for drug charges.

Lane was the prosecutor's very first case as head prosecutor.

The outcome of the January decision -- or "non-decision" -- did not 
deter Grace.

Her first trial resulted in a hung jury and subsequent 
mistrial.  State's evidence against Lane, charged with distributing 
crack cocaine, had to be presented again and the entire case had to be retried.

Jeter stuck with the case and landed a conviction against Lane after 
the second trial.

"It was retried and he was convicted," she said.  "He was sentenced 
to 25 years." The Lane case was presented before Judge Charles 
A.  Lex Short on both occasions.

Although the county's newest assistant DA has tried only drug cases 
to date, that field will not encompass the entirety the charges 
she'll prosecute.

"I think just due to the volume of drug cases, everybody has more of 
those to prosecute," she commented, "but those are not going to be by 
exclusive duties."

At the end of the day, when Grace goes home to her husband Jeff ( a 
native of Red Level ) and their 2 1/2-year-old son Jake, she's 
comforted in knowing she's done her job, and done it to the best of 
her ability.

The support she receives from her family and the other staff members 
in the District Attorney's office helps a great deal -- when the days 
often get long and the case files continue to mount.

"I am being supported," Grace said in an interview adjacent to the 
DA's office Friday.  "I am getting very much support and 
encouragement from all of the people here.  My husband's also been 
such a great help and support to me.  It's been wonderful to have him 
to be so supportive of me."

The wife, mother and community activist says she tries not to let the 
work load become too overwhelming.  She's gotten used to it, basically.

"It's what's to be expected," Grace said.  "I have a wonderful office 
I work in.  I respect that.  Greg ( Gambril ) is great.  I do have a 
child and commitments to him.  ( Greg ) works around that for me."

Grace plans to stick around Covington County for some time to come, she says.

"Yes I do."

Grace is the only female prosecutor in the DA's office, but that has 
not been an obstacle, she is quick to say.

The local prosecutor does not see her job as one where she's "out to 
get the bad guy," so to speak.  Rather, she says she hopes to help 
others in every way that she can through the field she's chosen.

"The thing that makes me want to come to work is that I know I'm 
helping people who can't help themselves," Grace said.  "I'm helping 
victims and also helping people who have drug problems."

Her philosophy in general?

"Just always in my life, I try to remember just how much God has 
blessed me and ask Him to understand this world, and for Him to help 
me to do the best that I can."

Gambril commends Jeter for her "Grace under Fire" and performance 
during trials.

"Grace has only been prosecuting for eight months and has won both of 
the cases that she's taken to trial.  Our county has been truly 
blessed by her willingness to serve as an assistant district attorney."