By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Escambia County’s Law Day observance, canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returned last week, although it returned in a modified form.
The county courthouse, usually filled with high school seniors, contained just 14 students, members of a jury that would later hear a criminal case and pass a binding verdict, and their teachers or administrators, along with two or three members of the general public.
“Everything is as usual,” said attorney Tim Godwin, president of the county bar association. “We’ll have the program before the trial, and that will not be scaled down.”
The young jurors, from Escambia County High School and Escambia Academy, were introduced to the courthouse staff, then heard brief remarks from Drug Court Judge Bradley Byrne and Alabama State Bar Association President Robert Methvin Jr. before the featured speaker delivered her address.
Leura Canary, Uriah native, currently general counsel for Retirement System of Alabama, spoke on this year’s Law Day theme, “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”
She explained to the small crowd that rule of law is “a fundamental agreement in our society that people will abide by the law, and that those who don’t are subject to criminal or civil penalties.” She used traffic laws, health and safety laws and employment laws as examples of rule of law that are experienced every day by most Americans.
“Rule of law tends to balance individual rights against the safety and rights of others,” she said. “It’s meant to define the boundaries between individual rights and the rights of others.”
Mrs. Canary also said that, if an individual doesn’t agree with a particular law, that changes could be made by voting, serving on a jury, running for office or supporting officials the individual feels is just.
She cited the words of President Dwight Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander for Allied troops in the fight against Nazism and Fascism in World War II.
“In short, respect the law even when you don’t agree with it,” she urged, using a phrase from the former president, under whose administration Law Day was established in 1958. “The clearest way to show what rule of law means to us in our everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.”
As the 12 jurors (two alternates remained in the courtroom during deliberations) discussed the case of a local man charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to use a seatbelt and having an open container in his vehicle, District Judge Eric Coale provided commentary on the pandemic and on life choices.
“Hopefully, soon we’ll be over this COVID and things will go back to normal,” he said. “Things are going to pop up in life that will not be easy for us. Life’s about choices, to go down the right road or go down the wrong road.”
Jurors returned a verdict of guilty on all charges in the case of State of Alabama vs. Buford Lowery, who was charged by Alabama State Troopers with DUI and the other two charges when he posted a .09 blood-alcohol content reading after driving up on a roadblock in 2020.
The jurors from ECHS were Breanna McGowan (who was elected by her peers as foreman of the panel); Amiya Holt; Jamarcus Leslie; Stephano Schubring; Caprice Murphy; Hayden Weaver; Destiny Brown; Latressa Knight; Isiah Mason; Aaron Calva, and Samantha Forkins (alternate).
The jurors from EA were Lillian Bonner, Austin Washington and Rubye Nix (alternate).