In this top lefthand corner of the state, October brings welcome relief from the long summer heat, and in the small-town newspaper biz, what it often also brings welcome relief from is slow news stretches, in the form of the fall Dade Superior Court term.
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit judges are in Dade several times a month for arraignments and sundry other legal business, but jury trials except in very special circumstances happen here only in April and October.
What's on the slate for this October? The lineup of criminal cases is pretty full--no fewer than 137 cases are on the docket this fall--but most of them are fairly low-profile drug cases, and if experience is any guide, most of them will "plead out," negotiating guilty pleas and terms of punishment and/or restitution, before their day in court comes up. Only a few will actually find their way before a jury of Dade citizens in October, and of those, very few look likely to produce much drama (hard as The Planet may squeeze).
Still, let's take a look at cases that have been reported in these pages during their commission stages:
Two Dade County High School boys arrested for bringing a gun to school are scheduled to go on trial Oct. 18. They were both 17 years old at the time of their arrest and, pursuant to its policy, The Planet did not publish their names at the time of their arrests and will not do so now. The gun was not loaded, and no actual or intended violence was associated with the incident, which appeared to be a straightforward sales transaction. But with anxiety across the nation high in the wake of horrific school shootings in Florida just prior to the incident, law enforcement and school officials had little choice but to deal with the case seriously and harshly.
One of the boys was charged with theft by taking in this matter; both were charged with "carrying weapon in school safety zone" and "disrupting school." The youths have different defense attorneys and are scheduled for separate trials.
An 18-year-old girl arrested a week or so before the boys, in her case for scrawling a vague threat on a bathroom wall at the high school, was also scheduled for trial this term, but she has already negotiated a plea. She pled guilty and was sentenced to three years of jail time for terroristic threats and one for disrupting public school, to be served concurrently, and all on probation. There was also a $250 fine. Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of schools, said the girl, a senior, was able to finish her coursework online and graduate this summer. "We try to help all students so they can graduate," reported the super.
The Planet will also try to help this young person by not republishing her name.
Ditto another young person who also splashed his across headlines in a youthful mistake earlier this year: A 21-year-old Lookout Mountain, Ga., man is scheduled for trial this October on eight counts of serious injury by vehicle, DUI and hit and run. The young man is accused of leaving the Scenic Highway accident scene where his car had collided with another, sending a man and an 11-year-old girl to the hospital. His mother subsequently called the Dade County Sheriff's Office to report he had fled because he was frightened, and the young man was arrested and booked without incident.
Finally, Eric Anthony Inman, 36 at the time of his arrest in May of this year, is also on the fall docket. Originally arrested for a May 17 attempted burglary, Inman grabbed the county's attention by allegedly trying to escape from a holding area at the county jail by forcing his way through the ceiling.
Deputies interrupted the attempted jailbreak and Tased Inman. He now faces charges of interference with government property, riot in penal institution and obstruction of officers, and those are scheduled to be heard this fall. A motion of continuance was entered in the burglary case.
The Dade Planet will follow October court proceedings and faithfully relay all findings to its readers.