A sobering failure

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Only in America could a suspect come into court admitting she did something – and walk out being told she didn’t.

Keena Ware, a multiple DUI offender, admitted she was on her third beer the night of March 28, 2010, with three young kids in the car, all younger than 9. Richmond County deputies found the beer she was then working on in her SUV.

But astoundingly, the District Attorney’s office chose not to subpoena the officer who made the traffic stop, and she escaped court Nov. 8 with but a $250 fine for having an open container – and no DUI conviction.

It would have been her fourth, according to court records.

Ware registered a .237 blood alcohol level on a field test inadmissible in court – nearly three times the legal limit – but refused to take any admissible tests, making the detaining officer’s testimony all the more valuable, and his absence at trial more damaging.

Still, knowledgeable sources we talked to said Judge Michael Annis probably had enough evidence to convict. Indeed, even in acquitting her of DUI, Annis made this bizarre statement: that there was no question Ware was driving drunk that night. No question? Where does that fall on the “reasonable doubt” scale? Wouldn’t you think “no question” exceeds reasonable doubt?

This was an absolute, shocking failure on the part of the justice system. A woman with three prior DUI convictions is caught red-handed – and admits it – yet, the system can’t convict her of it? We’re all lucky no one was hurt in March 2010 – but the system did absolutely nothing to prevent it from happening in the future.

Nor has the system done this young woman any favors by letting her, as Judge Annis put it, “dodge the bullet.”

Perhaps a fourth conviction, this time a felony, might have been – well, sobering.

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Austin Rhodes
2862
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Austin Rhodes 11/18/11 - 11:53 pm
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The ADA lost the chess game

The ADA lost the chess game in court...when this chick kills someone, they can put that on the tombstone.

With a .237 BA you have evidence, strong evidence, that the girl lied about only being on her third beer...try at least TEN. There is obstruction, lying to a police officer. I guess the good news is, these court folks know we are paying attention...whatever they do...it is not going to happen in the dark.

Austin Rhodes
2862
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Austin Rhodes 11/18/11 - 11:55 pm
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...oh...and good news for all

...oh...and good news for all the people J.D. Paugh cited for DUI with cases still pending...he can't testify...YOU WIN!

Vito45
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Vito45 11/19/11 - 12:57 am
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Probably closer to a 12 pack.

Probably closer to a 12 pack. A quick calculation of: 12 beers in a four hour period @ weight of 140 lb = .248

10 beers in 2 hrs works out to .227. In either case, she was HAMMERED. The telling thing is she was still upright with a BAC that high. The vast majority of us would be slobbering, staggering drunk at that level, and darn close to alcohol poisoning. She has a LOT of experience for that kind of tolerance. She needs help before she destroys her liver, not to mention someone on the road.

For the uninitiated, the rule of thumb used to be for medical purposes:

.100 = dui
.200 = visibly drunk
.300 = comatose
.400 = death

I've seen practiced veterans WALK in to the V.A. with BAC .300+; it all depends on what kind of tolerance you've built up from chronic heavy consumption, and how well your liver is taking it out.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/19/11 - 06:26 am
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Vito45, I am one of the

Vito45, I am one of the uninitiated. Thanks for the education. Our justice system did in fact fail us. There is no excuse for this.

blues550
376
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blues550 11/19/11 - 08:32 am
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How does a judge removed.
Unpublished

How does a judge removed. This one appears to be underqulified and a bit short in good judgement. I hear Burger King is hiring and I bet they would throw in some of those cool paper crowns to sooth his ego.

southernguy08
499
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southernguy08 11/19/11 - 08:36 am
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When this woman causes an
Unpublished

When this woman causes an accident, and sooner or later she will, I hope the judge and ADA are required to work the scene just so they can see what a fine job of bringing criminals to justice they're doing! Makes me sick!

Riverman1
83606
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Riverman1 11/19/11 - 09:00 am
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Look, the law is the law and

Look, the law is the law and Judge Annis was the judge. I don't know where we are getting into this conversation saying he should have done this and that to get her convicted.

If I'm not mistaken, he is supposed to be providing impartial jurisprudence. We have defense attorneys representing the defendants whose job it is to point out when the law is not being complied with and a judge has to comply with their arguments if they are correct. I mean that's what being a judge is all about.

A judge can't view all defendants as carceral much as he may personally want to. He's working on a higher level.

curly123053
4638
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curly123053 11/19/11 - 09:10 am
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This defendant will be back

This defendant will be back in court in the future after she is involved in a DUI crash involving fatalities! We will be back on this subject's story within a year or two.

Riverman1
83606
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Riverman1 11/19/11 - 09:18 am
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One last specific point,

One last specific point, supposedly the alcosensor test was used to determine her alcohol level. We learned on the other thread that an officer had been falsifying the alcosensor numbers if he didn't like the individual. Plus, that the alcosensor results could only be mentioned, but not presented as evidence, however the heck that works.

So Judge Annis really didn't have much to work with legally. As much as we all may have wanted to see the woman locked up, the bigger utilitarian goal is protecting the law.

Vito45
-2
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Vito45 11/19/11 - 09:34 am
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I'm still on your side about

I'm still on your side about Annis, RM. I just think it is a dirty shame the system failed to take this person off the street until she can get help.

alumna
10
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alumna 11/19/11 - 09:35 am
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If this case had been brought

If this case had been brought before Judge Craig, she would be serving a life sentence. At this point all I understand is that this drunk is out on the streets putting my small children in her crosshairs. We need judges whose primary focus is public safety. Where is the three strikes rule when you need it?

madgerman
236
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madgerman 11/19/11 - 09:39 am
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Has anyone noticed that in
Unpublished

Has anyone noticed that in the last fifty years our legal system has turned into a huge joke? What we need to fix the system is to elect more lawyers to represent us in Atlanta. Yeah that will cure the problem and get us back to a common sense legal system. P.S. as every lawyer and Judge will tell you, we are a nation of laws designed to protect our life liberty and the persuit of happiness.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 11/19/11 - 09:45 am
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RM1, My comment about the

RM1, My comment about the system failing us has nothing to do with the judge. It has to do with the failure to build a case against this woman.

LBenedict
2
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LBenedict 11/19/11 - 09:53 am
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Why oh why did the DA's

Why oh why did the DA's office not subpoena the arresting officer? I would think that this paper and other media outlets would bring an inordinate amount of attention to that piece of dereliction in the performance of duty! It pains me to admit, but, "the system worked"; a person was charged and given her day in court IAW the US Constitution, and Ashley Wright's subordinates CHOSE not to do their job...REPRESENT THE PEOPLE.

If Wright had done her job, this woman would be locked up and locked up for a good little bit. We cannot claim a "technicality" or "liberal laws" or "liberal judges" on this one...we can put 100% of the credit at the door of Ashley Wright's office. A person was arrested, charged, and, on "her day in court", the DA's office proved that it failed to have presented with a subpoena, its star witness. And for its failure, has pretty much escaped media scrutiny. Why?

david jennings
590
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david jennings 11/19/11 - 09:58 am
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Anyone stupid enough to get

Anyone stupid enough to get three DUI and working on a fourth don't seem to learn to fast. I predict it won't be long before another encounter with the law, meanwhile we can only hope it won't involve a tragedy.

Riverman1
83606
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Riverman1 11/19/11 - 10:15 am
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Vito and Scooby, understood.

Vito and Scooby, understood. We are all on the same page.

harley_52
23193
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harley_52 11/19/11 - 10:45 am
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I've heard this discussed all

I've heard this discussed all week on Austin Rhodes' show and followed it on these boards as well. I've tried to understand both sides of the issue.

To me, it comes down to whether we want our judges to strictly follow the law, or whether we want them to dance around the margins in order to achieve a result other than what a strict interpretation of that law would produce, simply because their personal "feelings" lead them there.

It's actually the same discussion as the U.S. Senate has each time they try to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice. Do we want a Justice who will strictly interpret the Constitution as it was written, or one who will try to imagine what the Founding Fathers might have meant if they had known then what we know now.

In other words.....do we want our judges making their calls based upon the law, which would represent their brain, or instead somehow twisting, or subverting the law to achieve the result they FEEL might achieve a better purpose.

Put me on the side of the strict constructionist. I don't want our Justice system operating on somebody's "feelings." We've had too much of that already and we have millions of dead unborn children to prove it.

harley_52
23193
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harley_52 11/19/11 - 11:00 am
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Another thing to think about

Another thing to think about here......

I heard Austin Rhodes last week discussing a phone call (or calls) he had received from other (unnamed) local judges advising him on ways Judge Annis could have legally subverted the system to achieve the result he wanted. One of them was to call a recess when he noticed the DA hadn't brought the arresting officer and given them a do over at producing evidence needed to achieve a conviction.

Isn't this a pretty good example of the "good ol' boy" system of justice we say we seek to avoid?

Who has that power (or SHOULD anyone have that power) working in favor of the defendant?

Jane18
12332
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Jane18 11/19/11 - 11:18 am
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She will be back! And, one of

She will be back! And, one of the charges next time will be vehicular homicide. Watch out for her and others like her..................they never learn or appreciate chances given to them.

Riverman1
83606
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Riverman1 11/19/11 - 11:23 am
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Agree, Harley. About this

Agree, Harley. About this anonymous judge Austin talked with, how many people tell you what you want to hear? I have a pretty good idea who the judge was and I'll bet he has his next election in mind. We all tell others and are told what is wanted to be heard.

It kind of ticks me off by itself that a judge would talk to a radio guy about decisions another judge made in a negative manner anyway. Austin is our local homeless guy with the golden voice...he's not PBS analyzing our jurisprudence system.

It's another story when THAT judge is presiding and has to worry about HIS decisions being overturned. Again, no one likes what happened...Judge Annis, ALL of us, Austin, but upholding the law is the important thing.

Austin Rhodes
2862
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Austin Rhodes 11/19/11 - 12:27 pm
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No law would have been broken

No law would have been broken if Judge Annis had adjourned the case for lunch, or the day, with the demand that if he does not hear from the arresting officer the woman would walk.

NONE.

You guys follow that rule book right off the cliff...the Judge could have done more, he chose to "punish" the ADA. Her mistake was honest, his was intentional.

Austin Rhodes
2862
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Austin Rhodes 11/19/11 - 12:38 pm
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BTW...RM...did you just move

BTW...RM...did you just move into Augusta? Sitting Judges do not get competition in the Augusta judicial circuit. Last was was Bettianne Childers Hart...and that was only because she was apparently incompetent, and the local BAR, and the other Judges, were concerned. That was well over a decade ago.

Piperpig
9
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Piperpig 11/19/11 - 01:06 pm
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I don't get this editorial.

I don't get this editorial. It's not so strange to me that the judge could be convinced that the defendant was drunk (based on the results of the alcosensor test) but not have sufficient evidence presented inside the courtroom to sustain a guilty verdict. One of the foundations of evidence law in this country is that if evidence is not admissible, then it does not exist. If an independent test was not available to demonstrate the defendant was drunk, then the judge is left with the defendant's confession that she consumed three beers and with the observations of the arresting officer. Stating that you consumed three beers is not the same as admitting that you were drunk behind the wheel, so that's not enough. Moreover, the incident report completed by the arresting officer is inadmissible hearsay unless he is there to authenticate it. If the arresting officer had testified, the defendant would have been convicted.

I mean think about it. You're the judge. You cannot consider the field test results indicating the defendant was basically a walking a liquor bottle (that's for the sentencing stage). You know that you have to presume the defendant is innocent and that it's up to the state to prove she was driving drunk. The ADA walks in and says the defendant was driving drunk on whatever date. The defendant denies she was drunk but admits to having drunk three beers. The judge looks back to the ADA and says "Okay, prove the defendant was drunk." The ADA basically replies, "She admitted to drinking three beers." Guilty or innocent?

And I'm not buying that the judge could have called a recess. Jeopardy attaches in a bench trial when the first witness is sworn. If the judge would have called a recess after that, then the defendant would have had very good grounds for appealing to the appellate level.

I guess the judge could have preemptively asked the ADA if she was going to present the arresting officer as a witness, but that's not really his job as a judge. Most likely the ADA did have the arresting officer listed as a witness but simply did not present him at the trial. It's not the judge's fault. Judges want to see justice in their courtroom. No one wants to see a guilty person walk out of a courtroom with no punishment. But the judge is sworn to uphold the law.

The ADA made a mistake in judgment. It happens to everyone. Most people, however, don't have their mistakes thrown up for ridicule and scorn in a major newspaper. I guess that's just part of being a public servant.

Patty-P
3516
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Patty-P 11/19/11 - 01:07 pm
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I agree with Harley and

I agree with Harley and Riverman. I especially find it disturbing that a judge would talk to a radio host about decisions made by another judge. I think the law should prevail as Harley stated. The evidence presented wasn't enough to convict her, so the judge (in my opinion) made the correct choice in how he handled the case. I just pray this woman doesn't do this again, although it's highly likely. And if so, they need to put her where she belongs. I feel bad for her children.

harley_52
23193
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harley_52 11/19/11 - 01:11 pm
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Austin Rhodes said "You guys

Austin Rhodes said "You guys follow that rule book right off the cliff...the Judge could have done more, he chose to "punish" the ADA. Her mistake was honest, his was intentional."

The ADA made a "mistake." The Judge performed his "duty."

That you consider a Judge performing his duty to provide blind justice a "mistake" is instructive.

There's a reason lady justice wears a blindfold, Austin, and you should celebrate it, not condemn it.

I mean if you're a Conservative as you claim to be.

Austin Rhodes
2862
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Austin Rhodes 11/19/11 - 01:17 pm
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The "evidence" was walking

The "evidence" was walking around somewhere eating a sandwich. Why not pause and go get him?

None of what I have suggested the Judge should have done was illegal...improvisational, perhaps, outside the box thinking to be sure, but none of it illegal.

When this lady slams into to someone drunk, I hope the Judge's strict attitude comforts you.

Quite simply, he could have done more, he chose not to do more. That is the difference between someone doing their expected duty, and a "hero", is it not?

"Heroes" rarely follow conventional thinking, or standard operating procedure.

harley_52
23193
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harley_52 11/19/11 - 01:20 pm
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Austin Rhodes said "No law

Austin Rhodes said "No law would have been broken if Judge Annis had adjourned the case for lunch, or the day, with the demand that if he does not hear from the arresting officer the woman would walk.

NONE. "

It may be true that no law would be broken by calling such a recess, or adjournment, with the warning to the ADA, but I'm not so sure about the Judicial ethics of such a move. It is a clear demonstration of favoritism toward the prosecution and an obvious attempt to influence the outcome of the trial.

I say it would be unethical, but I'm an admitted layman here. What do the lawyers and judges think?

harley_52
23193
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harley_52 11/19/11 - 01:27 pm
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Austin Rhodes said "When this

Austin Rhodes said "When this lady slams into to someone drunk, I hope the Judge's strict attitude comforts you."

Really? That's what you hope? That because I dare hold an opinion at variance with yours I should be comforted by some sort of tragedy?

Then he said "Quite simply, he could have done more, he chose not to do more. That is the difference between someone doing their expected duty, and a "hero", is it not?"

Not in my book.

Then he said "Heroes" rarely follow conventional thinking, or standard operating procedure."

Heroes are typically brave enough to do the right thing even in the face of adversity, or danger.

That's precisely what Judge Annis did in this case. He's a hero in the eyes of justice who chose the right path even to be faced with certain criticism from those who value emotion over justice.

Patty-P
3516
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Patty-P 11/19/11 - 01:31 pm
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Excellent posts Harley.

Excellent posts Harley.

harley_52
23193
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harley_52 11/19/11 - 01:35 pm
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Thanks, Patty-P. You're too

Thanks, Patty-P. You're too kind.

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