A Decade of Law
We’ve covered a range of legal goings on here in the lowcountry – lawyers held hostage, drug busts, executions, that flag flap – here are some of the best from the past 10 years.
Mike Hostilo / Issue 21
An attorney’s worst nightmare: a former client, unhappy with his day in court, threatens violence and returns for vengeance. That’s exactly what happened when Robbie Brower took Michael Hostilo hostage in his Statesboro law office in 2006. 11 years after serving time for brutally beating a man with a hammer, Brower and wife Connie bound and gagged Hostilo holding him at knifepoint for 24 hours. Hostilo’s courtroom savvy prevailed, though. Eventually his captors removed the duct tape from his mouth, and Hostilo negotiated his own release. Brower is currently serving an 85-year sentence, his wife a 65-year sentence for taking Hostilo hostage. Michael Hostilo has reduced the number of cases he takes on and now mostly works out of his Savannah office. “My whole perspective of life has changed,” says Hostilo, “I’m a better me. I’m a better person.”
Tempered and True: The Iron Defense of Mike Schiavone / Issue 62
Long odds lingering over your head? Hard time staring you down? Your back’s against the wall and nobody’s on your side? Iron Mike’s your man. With more than 40-years’ experience as a defense attorney, he’s seen his share of ripped-from-the-headlines cases. The kind that become books and big-budget films. In the late ‘80s, Schiavone represented Carl Isaacs. Isaacs escaped from a Maryland prison with two others, broke into a Georgia farm house, killed five men and raped a woman before also murdering her. The trial carried on for a month, and the jury deliberated into the night before delivering its guilty verdict. The case remains one of Georgia’s grisliest tales of murder, going on to become both a book and a film. More recently, Schiavone defended former Miss Savannah pageant winner, Sharron Nicole Redmond, in the aggravated assault shooting of Kevin Shorter. The jury determined Redmond’s actions as self-defense. Redmond now lives in Atlanta and is pursuing a PhD. in career development.
Cover Shock / Issue 57
That necktie with a nod to the “Stars and Bars” ignited fury and debate across South’s social media and digital platforms. On the cover of 2015’s late-summer “Money and Power” issue, the image was published on the heels of Dylann Roof’s racially-motivated rampage, in which he shot and killed nine African American parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina, church. Roof embraced the Confederate flag as personal emblem for his deeds, a token of his racial hatred. Across the country, emotions ran high both for and against the flag. For many, it serves as reminder of the pervasive inequity that denied slaves their worth and recognition as humans. Others see the flag as part of southern culture and heritage, a symbol of pride, independence and of standing apart. Like it or not, the Confederate flag is a cultural artifact that remains uncomfortably situated in contemporary America and is undeniably a part of the South’s history. Everything the flag represents can’t be erased or whisked away; it’s a symbol that all us Southerners must come to terms with one way or another. For goodness sakes, we are headquartered in Savannah, Georgia! South magazine felt compelled to address the flag. National magazine consultant, Cable Neuhaus, offered, “And let’s face it, if a magazine named South failed to address the flap over the Confederate flag—if it simply permitted the national brouhaha to pass without remark—shame on such a book. It would not deserve the attention or loyalty of its readers.
Savannah’s war on drugs / Issue 62
From 2014 to 2015 violent crime in Savannah rose by 26 percent. Nationwide for that same time period, violent crime went up by 4 percent. In Savannah, those numbers continue to climb, significantly outpacing the national average. Local law enforcement is convinced drug trafficking has a lot to do with the uptick. And they are primed and ready to fight back. Law enforcement is reluctant to say the Lowcountry is in the midst of a drug epidemic, but they do acknowledge a flood of crystal meth users inundating southeast Chatham and surrounding counties in the past two years. The DEA has identified four cartels operating out of Atlanta. Super labs in the city refine the substance to its crystal form, which yields a stronger high. Then “mules” transport pounds of it to distant communities like Savannah, surrounding counties and as far away as Charleston. Savannah’s drug problem boils down to supply and demand. “Law enforcement has to aggressively target the dealers. Without the dealers, they simply can’t get the drugs,” said Sergeant Gene Harley of Savannah’s Counter Narcotics Team.
Innocent as Sin / Issue 15
Troy Davis: in the years leading up to his execution on Sept. 21, 2011, his name has become synonymous with that margin of injustice that sometimes results from justice. In 1989, Davis was alleged to have shot and killed a young, very popular Savannah police officer, Mark McPhail. After a local media frenzy and nearly two years of court proceedings, Davis was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991. But in intervening years, parts of that story just didn’t add up. In the four-day manhunt for Davis, police discovered that the man who implicated Davis in the murder owned a caliber gun that killed McPhail the night of the shooting. The information was not investigated or submitted in the murder trial. The prosecution also never produced a murder weapon. Between 1996 and 2005, seven witnesses came forward and recanted their testimony, indicating they’d been pressured by police to name Davis as the shooter. One witness went on record to say he was forced to sign a statement but didn’t know what it said because he couldn’t read. Between 2007 and 2009, Davis leveraged three stays of execution with support from Amnesty International, Pope Benedict XVI, Jimmy Carter, and Desmond Tutu. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered an evidenciary hearing in which Davis’ death sentence was upheld, despite nearly a million signatures petitioning for clemency and a host of politicians and celebrities campaigning on Davis’ behalf. What’s the take away here? Humans are imperfect, we are biased and often victims of our emotions. Our legal system is a human endeavor and as such sometimes justice is tainted. Troy Davis’ death offers a light on human fallibility. May his story shine so that innocence will prevail and live when staring down similar circumstances.