Shoals District Attorneys: Same Title – Different Styles

By  | March 20, 2012 | Filed under: News

Chris Connolly and Bryce Graham

MUSCLE SHOALS – Colbert and Lauderdale D.A.’s spoke to the Shoals Democratic Club Monday night about the challenges of today and their visions for the future. And while Bryce Graham and Chris Connolly both hold prosecutorial prowess in the court system of The Shoals, their outlook on things is somewhat different.

 

 

 

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Lauderdale County D.A. - Chris Connolly

Chris Connolly, Lauderdale County D.A., is known for his willingness to tackle difficult cases in the courtroom. He told the audience of about 60 Democrats that the most enjoyable part of his job is presenting cases to the court, the job of District Attorney is so much more than that. When Connolly is not in court, he stays busy managing his bevy of ever-increasing responsibilities. Primary among his duties is keeping up the level of service to the county, while at the same time his budgets are decreasing. “We have a section of our office that helps poor people collect their lawful child support when they can’t hire their own attorney. It keeps us really busy helping these individuals,” Connolly said. “The danger we face today is that the State of Alabama is poised to defund the program. These poor people will be on their own, and the most amazing thing is, the Director of The Department of Human Resources is the person suggesting this.” He went on the say that if this situation was not serious enough, the 10.6% proration of State budgets announced this week by Governor Bentley puts additional pressure on his office. “We are probably going to have to reduce services to residents of Lauderdale County, and I know that Bryce (Graham) is going to have to do the same in Colbert,” Connolly complained.

On a more positive note, Connolly spoke of a couple of new programs in Lauderdale that are saving money on incarceration, are helping people get off drugs, and are keeping the roadways clean. “About 90% of our criminal cases are related to illegal drug abuse in some way or the other,” he said. “We have a great program called ‘Drug Court’. We work with defendants who are addicts. When convicted, many are given the opportunity to stay out of jail and attend rehab. The sentence is suspended for a year, and if the defendant works in the program and successfully completes rehab and gets off drugs, they have a second chance. It saves their families, their spouses and their children. If the individual drops out of the program, they go directly to jail to serve their full sentence. We started with about 15 people in Drug Court, and now we have about 60.”

Another positive in the Lauderdale District Attorney’s Office is the ‘Assign A Highway’ program. Individuals who are convicted of minor crimes can avoid jail time by having a mile of county roadway assigned to them to keep clean. They can do it without the necessity of having a police officer supervise them as part of a roadway cleanup crew such as those which are seen all over the area. This saves the county money and effort. The program is partnered up with the ‘Keep The Shoals Beautiful’ organization in Lauderdale County, and volunteers from KTSB monitor those sections of roads that have been assigned. “If the roads don’t show improvement, we put the person assigned to the section in jail, according to his or her sentence,” Connolly explained. “You would be amazed at how quickly the litter disappears when the person is incarcerated. Husbands, wives, kids, aunts, uncles and cousins come out of the woodwork to clean up the road to get their relative out of jail.” Connolly noted that Sheffield City Council Member and KTSB  of Colbert County member, Steve Stanley, is working with Colbert D.A. Bryce Graham to set up a similar program.

After Chris Connolly wrapped up his talk, D.A. Graham took the microphone. His style, to say the least, was different. Graham emphasized that the message of proration and that of ever-diminishing budgets, delivered to the audience by Connolly, was just as valid in Colbert County as in Lauderdale, however he took a radically different approach to the cause and blamed Republicans as the root of the problem. Graham sounded like a Democrat evangelist. He claimed that Republicans have made poor people ‘the enemy’. And he said he didn’t understand how it was that people in Alabama could be brainwashed into voting against their own interests. He cited school teachers as an example. (Polls have shown conclusively that teachers voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates in the last statewide elections where the GOP took control of government for the first time since Reconstruction.)

 

Bryce Graham

Then Graham turned into part-politician/part-tent preacher. He said, “Look, we all go to church, right? We know that the Republicans are telling people that Democrats are godless sinners who want to kill babies and promote socialism,” he said, in so many words. “But I’m here tonight to tell you this, You CAN be a Christian and be a Democrat! I believe that Jesus had to be a Democrat.” With that, Graham concluded, “We have to get out among our Christian friends and get them to understand that they must vote the Republicans out of power.”

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