Notes from the cops and courts beat
Aug. 12, 2001
Here's a look at a few things that happened this week at the Lauderdale County Courthouse as the indictments issued by a July grand jury began to work their way through the judicial system and Tax Collector Stanley Shannon prepared for a delinquent tax sale.
at the courthouse
On Friday morning, every seat in the second floor courtroom was taken and people lined the walls as defendants indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury were arraigned.
The first few minutes had a kind of lottery feel, as a handful of people learned that the grand jury had declined to indict them. They were free to go.
For the rest, it was a process that took all morning. When your name is called, you walk to the judge's bench, where you are served with your indictment. If you can afford to hire your own attorney, a court date is set and you're done.
If you can't, you are sent back to the Circuit Court office, where workers help you fill out a request for a court-appointed attorney. Then, it's back to the courtroom where your application is reviewed and a public defender is assigned to your case. A court date is set and you're done.
If you are not present when your name is called, your bond is revoked and a bench warrant is issued for your arrest.
It's an intricate and exhausting process for the Circuit Court staff but luckily, it only happens three times a year.
About high-profile trials
The activity surrounding an emotionally-charged murder indictment strains everyone's nerves, and it is not uncommon for the media to find themselves at odds with law enforcement or court officials. The agendas conflict. It's a matter of "provide as much information as you can" vs. "protect the rights of the defendant."
Such was the case this week, as The Meridian Star disagreed with Circuit Judge Larry Roberts' decision to accept Peggy Sloan Starns' "not guilty" plea in chambers as friends and family members representing both sides waited in the courtroom to witness the proceeding.
I've gotten a few ugly comments about it. But, understand this, the fact that we disagree with the judge in this specific example in no way diminishes our regard for his integrity and ability.
Something else to remember. This is America. Peggy Sloan Starns is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
New, improved OxyContin
On Sept. 18, a Lauderdale County man is scheduled to stand trial for prescription fraud involving OxyContin, the trade name for the narcotic oxycodone hydrochloride. The formal charge on the face of the indictment is "obtaining a controlled substance, OxyContin, by fraud."
We ran a story a few weeks ago about the increase of OxyContin abuse locally.
The drug is prescribed for patients with long-term chronic pain. It is popular with drug abusers because they can bypass the drug's 12-hour time release mechanism for a euphoric rush similar to heroin. Most often, abusers grind the tiny pellets inside the capsule into a powder, which is then mixed with water and injected.
The danger lies in the fact that OxyContin is a powerful drug, and bypassing the time release mechanism can kill.
Researchers for the manufacturer, Purdue Pharma LP, are working on a new version of the drug designed to thwart abuse.
An Associated Press report earlier this week said the new version of the painkiller would be embedded with microscopic beads'' of naltrexone, a narcotic antagonist that counteracts the medicine. The beads would be coated with a chemical to keep them from dissolving if the pills are taken as directed.
The as-yet-unnamed formula could be available in three years.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.