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The injustice of justice

web posted June 23, 2008
OPINION – Was justice served last Tuesday morning at the Edgefield County Courthouse? The murder charge for the killing of 54-year-old Gregory Jones in November of 2006 was handed down to Ollie Dwight Hall, who plead guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter. Mr. Hall, a former law enforcement officer in Edgefield County and a Court Bailiff at the time of the killing, will not see one day in the state prison system.

The night of the murder many of the local residents were telling each other and law enforcement at the scene that nothing was going to be done because Mr. Hall was a retired police officer. Authorities calmed the growing crowd by telling them Hall would be treated like everybody else. One has to wonder, does “everybody else” get to walk away from killing an unarmed man with a sentence of being forced to sit at home and watch TV all day for the next two years? Probably not.

Circuit Court Judge J. Cordell Maddox sentenced Mr. Hall to two years of house detention after suspending a ten-year sentence. That is quite a precedent to set for voluntary manslaughter at the best and murder at the worst.

According to the facts delivered in the case in sentencing, Mr. Jones had a blood alcohol level three times the point of intoxication when the altercation took place. Mr. Hall, a trained law enforcement officer, should have been able to resolve the situation without the use a deadly force. Like it or not, we hold those in law enforcement to a higher standard than the average citizen. Conspicuously missing was the mention of the blood alcohol level of Mr. Hall at the time of the killing.

Every thug that shoots someone in a fist fight will now point to the Hall case and claim they did nothing more than a trained law enforcement officer did and expect the same treatment in court, and rightly so. Judge Maddox missed this one in our opinion, and he evidently did not give consideration to the impact his ruling will have in the future.

Fortunately the state is stepping in and reviewing the sentence. Mr. Hall could see his sentence overturned and be forced to serve several years in prison for his crime. Mr. Hall did not shoot in self-defense or else he would not have plead to voluntary manslaughter but rather taken his chances with a jury.

Mr. Hall killed an unarmed man and deserves to serve prison time for his crime. Otherwise local law enforcement will have a hard time gaining the trust of the common citizen who will state that only criminals without a badge are punished.

Let’s hope the state takes a similar position on the matter for the sake of county residents and local law enforcement.


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