A major development occurredÂ in a case we followed, and something I wasn`t aware of. On March 2, Judge Jacob Walker overrode the recommendations of the jury and sentenced Courtney Lockhart to death for the murder of Lauren Burk. The judge has the final say under Alabama law. Walker decided Lockhart should be put to death, noting the defendant was suspected in other crimes the jurors didn`t know about.
Lauren Burk`s father made an emotional appeal asking Walker to overturn the jury`s "life without parole" sentence. Burk said that Lockhart still had a daughter.
Seated at the defense table, Lockhart shouted out: "Don`t bring my daughter into this!"
Burk answered: "I wish you hadn`t brought my daughter into it."
Isn`t Lockhart`s unhappiness at receiving a death sentence a sign of sanity?
NS: In Alabama, as in Tennessee, every death sentence receives an automatic appeal. If I were Lockhart`s defense attorney, I would argue that the Judge violated the presumption of innocence, in assuming that my client was guilty of the other crimes for which he was suspected, and then applying said assumption in his sentencing decision.
With that said, I salute Judge Walker for doing the right thing, and hope that his decision survives the appeals process.