December 6, 2011 12:42:00 PM
Brian Holliman will get a new trial.
And we get to pay for it.
Trials are expensive, time consuming and add to an already congested court system. So when we have to pay for the same one twice, it touches a nerve, as well as our pocketbooks.
In the case of Brian Holliman, who was convicted of killing his wife in 2008, a Supreme Court ruling cited "an egregious display of prosecutorial misconduct" as a reason to send the case back down for retrial.
During his closing arguments, District Attorney Forrest Allgood repeatedly asked jurors how they would feel if a shotgun were pointed in their face.
The illustration violated bans against Golden-Rule arguments, which ask jurors to put themselves in the place of a victim or the accused.
The Supreme Court criticized Allgood for using the argument and also 16th Circuit Court District Judge Lee Howard for allowing it.
Allgood and Howard are not rookies. They know the rules.
While no one can predict the outcome of a trial by jury, bench and bar certainly can work to be thorough and take every precaution to ensure a fair trial. That at least would reduce the risk of a costly retrial.
On top of the Golden-Rule argument violation, the justices pointed to a change of venue being denied.
Those who watched the case unfold -- ourselves included -- were surprised when Howard denied the change of venue.
The case was highly publicized, and people on both sides of the issue were passionate and well known locally.
Initially, the case was reported as a possible suicide.
Friends and family of the victim, Laura-Lee Godfrey Holliman, began calling the coroner and sheriff's department almost immediately after the reports started circulating. They were infuriated and wanted it investigated further.
More controversy danced around the case when Brian Holliman was released from jail a day after his arrest; his father had offered his land as collateral payment for his son's release.
Brian Holliman's defense team argued he couldn't get a fair trial in Lowndes County. The evidence was compelling, compelling enough to change the venue as a precaution.
But the case was tried in Lowndes County, and illegal arguments were used -- and allowed.
So here we are: A new trial on the taypayers' dime.
Break out the checkbooks.
1. Ask Rufus: Columbus' early log houses LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Roses and thorns: 7/27/14 DISPATCH EDITORIALS
4. Susan Estrich: The American way of death NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Birney Imes: Summer rain LOCAL COLUMNS