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No sense left at Nichols trial

We used to have a lot of things that we don't have any more. I wonder why they just up and disappeared.

Think about it.

Take rolling stores, for instance. We used to have rolling stores in the South. It was usually a small bus, or maybe a large van - my memory is a little cloudy on the issue - but it would come around our neighborhood every so often and folks could buy whatever there was to buy: Bobbie pins, hair brushes, pie pans, socks - all manner of odds and ends. My Uncle Butch sold Watkins salve out of his. Rolling stores were very convenient because they saved your mama a trip to the dime store.

Come to think of it, I don't think we have dime stores anymore, either. I am not sure about Bobbie pins.

I don't think we have punch boards, either. In fact, I wonder how many folks even remember punch boards or know what they were.

You'd find them on the counter, from time to time, of country stores. In the pre-lottery days they were about the only shot a respectable citizen had at gambling. You paid a quarter and punched out a number - or pulled a tab - and if there was a prize behind your number, you won the prize. Sometimes there was a sign on the punch board indicating that the proceeds went to charity, but my daddy always insisted that the only charities the punch boards ever benefitted were the proprietors of the store.

Anyway, I don't think we have them anymore.

We also don't have shoe trees or nylon stockings worn with garter belts or insurance agents that come by to collect premiums on Saturday mornings. We also don't have quarter-a-gallon gasoline or penny candy.

I suppose we can do pretty well without rolling stores or punch boards or garter belts - and goodness knows we don't need Saturday morning bill collectors - or shoe trees. But we've also said goodbye to something else that we really do miss, even more than we miss quarter-a-gallon gas.

We don't seem to have common sense in society anymore. Common sense is rarer than Bobbie pins and Watkins salve.

Take our legal system, for instance. I am speaking now of the Brian Nichols case.

Thirty-one months ago, Brian Nichols, who was already standing trial for rape and false imprisonment, allegedly went on a rampage, overpowered the lone police officer assigned to guard him and allegedly killed four people: Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Brandau, Deputy Sheriff Hoyt Teasley and U.S. customs agent David Wilhelm.

We have to say allegedly in the newspaper to keep from getting sued, I think, but that is another prime example of the disappearance of common sense from society, because there were dozens of witnesses to the first three murders.

And for the record, the police officer Nichols allegedly overpowered was a 51-year-old female who is 62 inches tall. (Nichols was 34 at the time, a former college football player in top physical condition.) The deputy had to remove Nichols' handcuffs so he could change out of his orange prison jumpsuit. Don't want the jury to be prejudiced against an alleged rapist, you know.

See what I mean about common sense, or the lack thereof?

He allegedly overpowered the deputy, took her gun, then allegedly overpowered another deputy, taking his gun, and entered Judge Barnes' courtroom. Nichols allegedly shot him in the back of the head, then turned the gun on Julie Brandau and killed her and Deputy Teasley as he left the courtroom. During the ensuing manhunt, which made world news, Nichols allegedly pistol-whipped an Atlanta news reporter, hijacked his car and killed David Wilhelm.

After more than two years, Brian Nichols was finally brought to trial this week. After two years, the families of Barnes, Brandau, Teasley and Wilhelm would have an opportunity to see justice served.

But now the trial is on hold again because the state has not provided enough funds for Nichols' defense.

We the people have only provided $1.2 million for Nichols' defense so far, and everybody knows that's nowhere near enough money. One point two million dollars. Let that roll around in your head a while. For the defense of a man who allegedly killed three people in front of a courtroom full of spectators. Earlier this week, a state judge ordered the Public Defender's Council to pony up another half-million or so - so that Nichols' lead attorney can be paid $175 an hour - nearly twice the normal $95 an hour the state pays.

Now the presiding judge has recused himself and, once again, justice has ground to a halt while we try to get up some more money for Brian Nichols' defense.

In the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, our Founding Fathers assured that "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial ... and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

I bet they didn't think it would ever come to this.

Of course, back then we still had common sense, didn't we? Reckon when it just up and disappeared?

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.