Pubdate: Thu, 24 May 2012
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2012 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Millard Grimes
Note: Athens resident Millard Grimes is a longtime Georgia 
newspaperman and author of "The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia 
and Its Newspapers Since World War II.


A multiple shooting occurred on the outskirts of Buford recently. Two
men were killed at the scene and two others were wounded, one of whom
was able to run for help at a nearby house. The reason given for the
gunfight was those familiar words in crime reports: "A drug deal gone

How many times a month in Athens and the metro Atlanta area is that
verdict rendered? How many people lie dead or wounded? In Buford, the
incidents are rare, but that outburst in an unlikely neighborhood
shows that "drug deals gone bad" followed by gunfights can happen anywhere.

Two men came to a house, presumably to buy or sell drugs to two men
who were in the house. One man became angry, according to police
reports, and began hitting the man who seemed to be the tenant.
Shooting then erupted and the tenant was killed, in addition to one of
the visitors.

The other visitor was charged with murder and drug

I certainly don't mean to minimize the danger in drug use, legal or
illegal. But in 2012, it seems time to admit that the all-out federal,
state and local wars on illegal drugs have failed to achieve their

There is more drug use today than 40 years ago. The majority of prison
inmates are incarcerated on drug-related charges, many of them fairly
minor. In a nation and a state obsessed with reducing the size and
cost of government, the expense of the war on drugs gets little mention.

Georgia has more prison inmates than any state except Texas, a result
of strict enforcement of drug laws and rigid prison sentences mandated
during the "lock 'em up and throw away the keys" political campaigns
of the 1980s and 1990s.

State laws give judges little leeway on the length of sentences for
drug cases.

Ironically, the same legislators who stiffened the sentences against
possession of even one ounce of marijuana have left the legal system
virtually helpless against convicted murderers, with no limit to their
costly and lengthy appeals.

The most egregious example is the case of the so-called Columbus
stocking strangler. Columbus was terrorized in the late 1970s by a
series of home invasions, which eventually left at least seven elderly
women strangled to death with their own stockings. The murders all
occurred in the fairly small area of Columbus known as Wynnton.
Despite all precautions and police traps, the strangler was not caught.

Some six years after the last known strangling, a fingerprint linked
Carlton Gary to the stranglings. Gary was tried and convicted in 1986.
He was later charged in another elderly woman's murder in New York by
DNA evidence.

Where is Gary today? Still on death row in Georgia, stretching out his
life with appeals, one of which saved him when he was just two hours
away from execution. He has been on death row for more than 25 years,
despite compelling evidence he was the strangler.

The other case that cried out for legislative action was that of Brian
Nichols, who killed a judge, a court recorder, a deputy sheriff and a
federal official, several in clear view of many witnesses, in Atlanta.
His case is estimated to have cost the state $5 million in legal
proceedings. Yet, in the end, he pleaded guilty and was given a life

Attacks on government officials should automatically get a death
sentence, because they are not only individual murders but attacks on
the system and the nation and states which must have willing public
servants to maintain their stability.

Many drugs have been legalized and are sold as prescriptions. There
may be more that could be regulated in that way and thus better
controlled, with no one lying on the floor dead.

Athens resident Millard Grimes is a longtime Georgia newspaperman and 
author of "The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers 
Since World War II.
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