Here, Calhoun County’s murder trials are neither flashy nor national in scope, but they matter nonetheless. Though often tedious and slow, American justice rightly gives the accused their day in court. Legal fairness is imperative, even for those accused of the most heinous of crimes.
Call this the Era of the Murder Trial in Calhoun County, a title we wish wasn’t so appropriate. The killings of Wellborn Elementary teacher Kevin Thompson, Anniston Police Officer Justin Sollohub and National Guardsman Dequirea Royal have left judicial byproducts — much-anticipated murder trials of multiple men.
Three of those men are accused of Thompson’s murder. One man, Nicholas Smith, will be sentenced Sept. 3 by Judge Brian Howell; the jury this week recommended the death penalty. A second man arrested in the Thompson case will go on trial in six months. The third man’s trial will follow.
The accused in Sollohub’s murder, Joshua Eugene Russell, will stand trial in September in Lee County. Trials for those accused of Royal’s murder will eventually be scheduled.
Three people murdered.
As many as seven murder-related trials.
Violence can be a great equalizer. It can strike anyone — a teacher, a cop, a soldier. In Smith’s case, it can likely see the end of a young man’s life at the hands of the state executioner. Yet, no one wins: bloody, street-level crime burdens societies, rips apart families and undermines the good intentions of citizens who may want nothing more than safe streets.
As these trials progress, Calhoun County must remember that there are victims on all sides. Families have lost sons and daughters — and will again, depending on the trials’ outcomes. Students have lost a mentor. A city has lost a civil servant and guardsman. Those lost, through violence or through retributive justice, can’t be replaced.
This county’s collection of small towns and close-knit communities aren’t accustomed to months of murder trial after murder trial after murder trial.
As we endure it — as we follow these trials — we must remember the value of humanity. All lives are important. And violence, that great equalizer, is a plague we must somehow tamp down.