North Georgia shootings need jury consideration

North Georgia shootings need jury consideration

December 18th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Distritct Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

It's been more than a month since Fred Steven Youngblood shot at two teens he said he found trying to take scrap metal from his yard in broad daylight. The teens said they thought the house was abandoned. It wasn't. Youngblood told police he told them to leave and they charged him. When he fired, he struck 17-year-old Dalton McConathy in the neck.

It's been three weeks since Joe Hendrix shot a 72-year-old, lost Alzheimer's victim who rang Hendrix's doorbell and walked to the backyard in the middle of the night. Hendrix left the house and shot the person he thought was a prowler after he gave orders to what turned out to be an elderly man with limited speech and understanding. He told responding officers that the man stepped toward him.

Police did not arrest Youngblood or Hendrix, and Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin on Monday said he has not made a decision about whether either or both men should be charged.

Certainly it is a weighty decision, and one filled with many repercussions. Likewise, however, taking no action also has many repercussions.

Lives were changed forever on both ends of those guns, and all of the unanswered questions about those lives and the actions surrounding the shootings -- as well as the public's understanding of those actions -- need to be resolved, not just left hanging to be grieved over quietly and forgotten.

Even if Franklin cannot make a decision on his own about charging or not charging the shooters, he should turn the cases over to the appropriate Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit grand jury or juries for review.

In the teen death case, two Ringgold men have told of being threatened at gunpoint by the reclusive Youngblood, and a third has said he was shocked by the shooting of McConathy, who he said had regularly recovered scrap metal from his property and was always polite. That man said McConathy never took anything without permission and offering to split whatever money he got from the scrap yards.

The teens were in Youngblood's back yard when he confronted them from his elevated back porch, so how did they charge him? Was the most reasonable route out of the yard and back to their waiting truck one in his direction? Were they running because Youngblood screamed something like "right now!" and waved the gun?

In the Alzheimer's sufferer's case, if Hendrix truly feared for his life, why did he go outside of a locked home instead of waiting for police?

These are questions that deserve airing in court in front of juries made up of real people. And there are charges that can be brought that are not as overreaching as murder.

Guns are deadly -- not just threatening. And until we are willing to look at the sorrow that comes with poor judgment and poor use of guns, we cannot learn how and when to properly handle them.

Buzz Franklin, please don't just sit on this cases and think they will pass quietly into the night of short public memory.

You, and we, owe all of these families and ourselves more than that.