Column: If you are truly out for justice

Published 2:26 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023

Before I started covering the trial of Brandon and Gregory Case, my only experience in a courtroom was serving on the jury for Arkansas’s teen court program in junior high. I’ve learned court proceedings lack the drama depicted on television or in books written by John Grisham. 

Courts operate as a system with steps, processes and checks and balances. Attorneys enter in evidence, call witnesses to the stand and then cross examine them. The court functions with order but sometimes a wrench gets thrown in. 

That is exactly what happened last week during the trial of two men accused of firing at a FedEx driver in January 2022. 

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Thursday’s mistrial ruling was a disappointing day for people like D’Monterrio Gibson’s mom who waited for the trial to come. I’m sure it was equally frustrating for Judge David Strong who presided over two days of court for a surprise piece of evidence to just pop up out of nowhere. Strong was right in his judgment of a mistrial.

Back in June, I sat in the courtroom and listened to pre-trial motions made by the attorneys Terrell Stubbs and Dan Kitchens. Stubbs asked District Attorney Dee Bates if he had any more discovery. Bates said he did not. 

“We don’t want to be surprised with any evidence,” Stubbs said in June. 

Lo and behold they were all surprised Wednesday when Brookhaven Police Detective Vincent Fernando produced a disk with a video of D’Monterrio Gibson’s statement unprompted. The evidence was never handed over to the District Attorney’s office nor the defense. It was the third time Fernando had disobeyed a court order during the trial. 

The ruling of a mistrial reset the court case as it will have to start again and a new jury will have to be selected. The mistrial came as a dismay to the court of public opinion. 

Sadly, the mistrial ruling has also turned the court of public opinion’s anger to be targeted at Brookhaven. City officials have shared they are getting nasty phone calls and emails about the trial. 

If you look at the Facebook comments on articles about the trial in other parts of the country there is broad judgment that our town is racist, and our police department is racist. The only reason this case went to mistrial was due to discovery not being turned over when it should have been. 

It is a shame we have to go through the process again but it is only fair. The Cases, whether you believe they are innocent until proven guilty or not, are entitled to a fair trial with a jury made up by their peers. 

Thank goodness people aren’t tried in this country by the court of public opinion though. People cry out they want justice but don’t pause to look at the facts. The court of public opinion viewed the Cases as guilty before they ever stepped foot in a courtroom. 

However, the burden of proof falls upon the State to prove the Cases are guilty beyond the shadow of doubt. Legally, they walked into the courtroom Tuesday at the start of trial as innocent men and walked out of the courtroom as innocent men Thursday. 

People who are truly out for justice must trust the court will do its job. If the evidence proves the Cases are guilty then the jury will render a guilty verdict. Only time will tell what happens with the case. It takes patience for justice to take its course.