Earl Galloway died the other day, as 93-year-old men often do. And when the tragic life of this simple frame maker was celebrated, family and friends couldn't help but bring up the name of a 58-year-old convicted killer who is getting old and fat at the state's expense.
Earl's wife preceded him. An unusual blessing of dementia had allowed Hettie Galloway to forget the rape and murder of their daughter, Jeannine, who in 1977 was taken from their carport while her mother was inside their modest home on St. Marys Road.
Earl could never forget. He always remembered what William Anthony Brooks did to his family 36 years ago. He died with the knowledge that Brooks survives in a north Georgia prison cell.
Facts of that case also survive.
Only eight blacks were among 160 jurors summoned for the trial in 1977, and none were selected for a jury that in less than an hour sent Brooks to the electric chair. But records also recall the brutality of his actions and that Brooks confessed to killing the 23-year-old church choir director when she wouldn't quit screaming.
In 1986, Earl and Hettie endured another trial. A second jury took that same amount of time to reverse the original decision and sentence Brooks to life in prison. That appeal was built on a charge to the jury that was considered standard.
Innocence was not the issue.
Bill Smith was never a judge or prosecutor in the case. He was an assistant district attorney at the time of the killing and a Superior Court judge at the time of the appeal. His relationship with the Galloways began out of professional courtesy, but as time passed his ties were much more personal.
He visited Earl in an assisted-living center in January and this week delivered his respects at Striffler-Hamby Mortuary.
"No one should have to suffer the way that family did," he said. "They were victims, just like their daughter, and they also suffered at the hands of the judicial system."
The last time he visited Earl he took a letter he received from the head of Georgia's Pardon and Parole Board after Brooks' recent parole request was denied.
"I promised Mr. Galloway I would write another letter when Brooks comes up for parole again in three years," Smith said.
Earl Galloway was buried Tuesday, next to his wife and daughter in Riverdale Cemetery. Old friends smiled at the thought of the happy reunion that occurred.
William Anthony Brooks, now known as ID No. 0000395321, is 57 years old and resides at Hays State Prison in Trion, Ga. He's 5-foot-8 and weighs a portly 270 pounds, still living up to his street name of Fats.
That is a picture that still confuses.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at email@example.com.