JUSTICE OR “JUST US” IN GIBBS COUNTY

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(Today, for a change of pace, I thought I would offer another “war story” from my unpublished memoir about my days as a prosecutor.  Names and places have been changed, but otherwise, this is a true story!)

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Gibbs County, whose county seat is Statesville, was the least populated county in our judicial circuit.  So, justice in Gibbs County was more like “just us.”  In other words, nobody lives there!  At least not human beings!  It is actually also one of our entire state’s poorest and least populated counties, with a population of only about 1,100, counting hunting dogs, gators, and possums.  It is located in the extreme south, nestled between Briggs County and the Florida panhandle.

Court is held there only once each year, every January.  This means that if you want to kill somebody in Gibbs County, you should wait and do so in December, right before court, because otherwise, you may literally sit in jail without bond for up to a year, until the judge comes back to town to hear your case!  There is no courthouse and there are no restaurants, (not even a McDonalds, and certainly not a Starbucks), in Gibbs County.  Each January, the judge holds court in the lunchroom of the (one and only) elementary school.  The clerk brings lunch for the judge, lawyers, and jury!

There is a true story which pretty well sums up justice in Gibbs County. One year, there were only two trials held there.  In one of the two cases, one man had killed another man, and in the other case, another man had killed another man’s bird dog. In the first case, the defendant who had killed a man was acquitted. In the second case, the man who had killed the dog was found guilty.  I have always wondered whether this proves, at least in Gibbs County, that you can kill another man, but you had better not kill his hunting dog!