Judge in Graham trial goes on leave

Greene's medical absence comes week after mistrial

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 3, 2012 

Judge George R. Greene of Russell County Circuit Court has taken a temporary leave of absence from the bench, citing unspecified medical reasons.

The move comes about a week after Greene's health prompted an unusual mistrial amid the capital murder proceedings of Lisa Graham, the Phenix City woman accused of hiring a triggerman to kill her 20-year-old daughter. That five-year-old case has been postponed indefinitely, and Graham's attorneys have filed a motion seeking to lower her bond.

Details of Greene's condition remain scant. The 62-year-old jurist has been known to suffer from a serious diabetic condition, but he has not said whether that contributed to Graham's mistrial or his leave of absence. Greene is one of only two Circuit Court judges in the county, and court filings did not make clear how long he would be sidelined.

Judge Albert L. Johnson entered an order on Monday canceling Greene's criminal jury trials next week as well as his Nov. 12 civil trial term. Greene, in a brief memo to attorneys, also scrubbed guilty plea hearings and a docket call this week. His next criminal term remains scheduled for Dec. 3.

Cases on Greene's docket next week were continued and transferred to Johnson. Four were dismissed for reasons unrelated to Greene's leave of absence, said Assistant District Attorney Buster Landreau.

Johnson took on Greene's new cases this week, including the arraignment of 28-year-old Cedric C. Williams, who was indicted on murder charges recently in connection with the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Ford. Williams was given a trial date of Jan. 14, his defense attorney, James E. Hall, said. Greene's absence will delay the setting of a trial date in the capital murder case of Brandin J. Singleton, said defense attorney Richard L. Chancey. Singleton is charged in the April 2011 shooting death of 18-year-old Iman Palmer. The Administrative Office of Courts in Montgomery, Ala., received notice of Greene's leave of absence Wednesday morning, spokesman Dean Hartzog said.

"The presiding judge, under Alabama law, has the authority to appoint district judges as Circuit Court judges to hear Circuit Court matters," Hartzog said. "That would be handled locally by the presiding judge."

It wasn't clear whether Johnson planned to seek a special appointment to fill in for Greene to help with the caseload.

Johnson has not responded to messages seeking comment on the status of the court.

Jeremy W. Armstrong, a prominent Phenix City defense attorney, said he thought Johnson showed "a lot of character" by taking on Greene's new cases.

"No one has a clue what's going on with Judge Greene in terms of his health," Armstrong said. "Judge Greene is a very private individual, and our local bar is very respectful of his privacy."

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