Aug. 18, 2002

Grand jury doesn't flood jail

By Marty Roney
Montgomery Advertiser

AUTAUGA COUNTY -- The overstuffed Autauga County jail population has remained relatively steady recently despite a hefty helping of indictments produced in the recent grand jury session.

The grand jury reviewed 264 cases and returned 137 indictments, according to Circuit Clerk Whit Moncrief.

About 100 cases, most dealing with drug-related charges, were continued to the next session because the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has not  completed work on the evidence, Assistant District Attorney Glenn Goggans said. Forensics officials blame the lack of funding for the long delays.

The Autauga County grand jury meets twice a year.

Bonds helped the overcrowded Autauga County jail from bursting its seams, Sheriff Herbie Johnson said. The circa 1970 jail is designed to hold 52 inmates, but the average inmate count tops 100 on a daily basis.

"We really haven't seen a strain in the jail because of the indictments," he said. "We contact those with indictments, or their lawyers, and tell them they need to come in. Most have already worked to get a bond. The rest we pick up, and if they can't post bond, we just get another mattress and sleep them on the floor."

The grand jury returned indictments in several
high-profile cases.

Nine indictments involved the Daystar Assembly of God fraud case. The grand jury also returned indictments for two murder charges and a manslaughter case against a woman operating an unlicensed assisted living facility, where an elderly patient died of hypothermia.

"I think we had several cases during this session which attracted public attention, more cases than in a normal session," Goggans said. "You had two people re-indicted on murder charges. You had the church case and the child pornography case. There are times when you just have a session that turns out that way."

Among the high-profile cases were: Nettie Mae Pickett of Independence, who was indicted on manslaughter charges in connection with the death of Rebecca Hall, an elderly patient in the unlicensed assisted living facility Pickett operated.

Jack Earl Gibson of Prattville, who was indicted on 100 counts of possession of obscene material depicting a person under 17. Police recovered the images of nude, underage girls from his computer.