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Attorneys and students meet to cheer Law Day

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Sometimes it takes a look back to see just how far the law of the land has come in 100 years.

The Dougherty Circuit Bar Association 2010 Law Day Banquet heard Judge Louis Sands of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia speak of a landmark law case circa 1906 Wednesday.

After Sands spoke six students were honored for their Law Day essays, a police officer received a Liberty Bell Award and nine students from Albany High School were inducted into the school's chapter of the Georgia Law Honor Society as part of the Law Day Banquet.

"I want to tell you a story," Sands said to a group of about 100 in the Hilton Garden Inn on the 100 block of South Front Street.

Sands outlined the United States vs. Sands, the only criminal trial ever conducted by the Supreme Court, according to the website Wikipedia.org.

The case involved a black man, Ed Johnson, falsely accused of raping a white woman in Tennessee. Johnson, through various ways including the restricting of jury selection to white men, had his constitutional rights to a fair trial denied.

Johnson was found guilty.

To add to the violation of his rights Sheriff Joseph F. Shipp failed to protect his prisoner, practically inviting the mob into his jail and allowing Johnson to be lynched.

The Supreme Court took up the case and intervened using the principle that it could always do so in state capital cases where a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of due process was involved.

It found Shipp and several conspirators guilty and sentenced them to a couple months in prison.

Telling the story in greater detail, Sands said that it illustrates the primacy of the rule of law in America. It formed the basis for many of the constitutional rights we enjoy today such as the right to a fair trial, effective counsel and a jury not tainted by racial exclusion.

"There is a federal right to a fair trial in state proceedings," Sands said. "The Shipp case is about the rule of law. It is about our system of law that is the envy of the world."

To recognize a non-attorney who promotes a better understanding of the law, encourages respect for the law and contributes to the community the association presents its Liberty Bell Award. This year's recipient is Dougherty County Police Cpl. Bob Jones.

The winners of the association's Bar Essay Contest were from high schools and middle schools: First place, Dontonio Thomas, second place Justin Pride, both of Monroe High School and third place Anaisia Cook of Dougherty High School.

First place, Donatavious Scott, of Radium Springs Middle School, second place, Jacqueline Groarke, third place Nic Scoccimario, both of St. Teresa's School.

Inducted into the Albany High School chapter, the Legal Chiefs, of the Georgia Law honor society were: Kwanesia Ellis, Reginald Dewayne Harvey II, Jeanetta Hicks, Shaniqua Jackson, Suzanne Elizabeth Jonson, Essence Thomas, Danyale Thurman, Evetta Whitley and Asia Woods.