Samuel Street was scheduled for arraignment in Dade County Superior Court at its session on Thursday. Street, 73, of Rising Fawn, is awaiting trial on charges of murder and malice murder in the shooting death of Justin Corey Alfrey last December.
But the arraignment didn't happen. The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit judge on duty at the Dec. 19 session was Kristina Cook Connelly Graham, daughter of Bobby Lee Cook, the famous trial lawyer whose Summerville firm Street retained for his defense, and mother of C. Sutton Connelly, the lawyer named as Street's defense attorney.
"I can't hear that," said Judge Graham during proceedings. "He's my baby boy."
She said the Street matter would have to wait for Judge Don Thompson, who has been assigned to the case.
Street has been free on a $150,000 bond since February. He was initially released under house arrest and electronic monitoring, but those restrictions were removed after his attorneys filed a "motion to modify conditions of bond" in June.
Though trials, and particularly trials in serious crimes, are always subject to "continuance," or postponement, Street's is on the schedule for Dade Superior's spring jury session in April.
Meanwhile, Judge Graham heard a wide variety of civil and criminal cases Thursday morning, including divorces, methamphetamine possession and the probation revocation case of one Joshua Pippin.
Pippin, 44, had been arrested in in July 2017 on a charge of possessing less than one ounce of marijuana and drug-related objects. A pistol found in his vehicle during the arrest led to the additional charge of possession of firearm during the commission of a crime. Proceedings seem to have been delayed--Pippin told the judge he'd been serving time in Alabama on similar charges--but he pled guilty to the minor marijuana and firearm charges at an arraignment on Jan. 10 of this year.
Pippin was assigned probation on those charges and was serving it out at his parents' home, having become homeless during his brush with the law. Pippin told the judge he had gotten work with his uncle in construction.
Then, Pippin and his public defender's office attorney, Jason Fisher, told the judge, probation officers during a routine home check in March noticed a bullet on a dresser in Pippin's bedroom. They then searched the room more thoroughly and found under beds in the room two rifles and a shotgun. Pippin was taken back to jail because as a felon, he was not allowed to possess firearms. Pippin has been in the Dade lockup ever since.
But at the Thursday hearing, Pippin told Judge Graham he had been as surprised at seeing the guns under the bed as anybody else. "I had no idea about those guns that were in the back bedroom," he said. He said that the bedroom had originally been his sister's and was so clogged with her clothes and toys belonging to her children that it was hard to navigate. "I had a little trail cleared out so I could go in there to go to bed," he said.
Moreover, he and Fisher explained, the home belonged to his father, a Vietnam veteran who, they said, probation officers had been aware from the start owned "a houseful of guns." Guns had been standing in the halls and hanging on the walls when Pippin moved in, he and his attorney said, and Pippin had helped his father move them to secure places in order to comply with probation officers' requirement they be removed from all common areas in the home.
It was established that the three long guns were unloaded, and that the bullet that had triggered the search didn't fit any of them. It was also established that Pippin did not belong to a crime gang but to the Sweeten Cove Church of Christ.
"Probation should not be out there looking for a reason to throw the book at somebody," said defense attorney Fisher. He pointed out that Pippin had been behind bars for eight months on the charges. "I'm asking you for mercy now," he said.
But the prosecutor, Megan Gaither of the Lookout Mountain District Attorney's office, argued that Pippin should stay put. He had gone into his father's house "knowing that guns were in there," she said, and had admitted handling them in order to help move them out of common areas.
Judge Graham agreed with the prosecutor, declined to release Pippin, and in fact sentenced him to 90 to 120 more days--that is to say, three to four months--in a detention center.
"Mr. Pippin, you can't be around guns," said Judge Graham. "You just can't."
Thus arose in Dade Superior the case of a man accused of murder a year ago and still free on bond, in fact not yet arraigned, and that of another man arrested for less than an ounce of marijuana who has been behind bars for eight months, and who has now been sent back for three or four more. And if one man had prestigious legal representation and the other a recently appointed public defender, The Planet draws no inference therefrom but juxtaposes these cases merely because they arose on the same day.