Ken Hodges, the special prosecutor who presented the Kenneth Walker case in November 2004, said in an interview Wednesday he expected the grand jury to indict the deputy sheriff who shot and killed Walker.
When the Muscogee County grand jury returned the “no bill” indicating former deputy David Glisson would not face charges, Hodges said he was “surprised.”
In fact, at the time the grand jury returned the no bill, Hodges was in a Government Center office with Glisson’s attorney, Richard Hagler, working out details for Glisson to post bond, Hodges said.
“I felt like there would be a true bill,” Hodges said. “I don’t agree or disagree with the grand jury decision. I think that the evidence was deputy Glisson pulled Mr. Walker out of the back of the car. The evidence that was presented there determined that it was an accident, which is obviously what a majority of the grand jury concluded. Let me make no mistake: Kenneth Walker never should have died that day. Never. And his death is a tragedy.”
Hodges, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Georgia attorney general, was meeting with potential supporters in Columbus on Wednesday morning when the question about Hodges’ handling of the Walker case came up.
Glisson is white and Walker is black, and the case caused a racial division in the community.
“When I tell people over the course of five or 10 minutes how the case was handled, I think they are comfortable with it, whether they are black or white,” Hodges said during a 30-minute interview. “The problem is on 30-second sound bites, what happened in the Kenneth Walker case is distorted. People distort it for their own means and objectives.
“Am I going to have to answer for what I did? Always — in this case and every other case. Did I handle it the way I think it should be handled? I think I did.”
Hodges said opinions will be shaped by “which side of the fence” a person is on.
“I don’t apologize for it,” Hodges said. “It was a tough decision. If I could in my power bring Kenneth Walker back, I would do that.”
Glisson fatally shot Walker on Dec. 10, 2003, after the SUV in which Walker was riding was pulled over on Interstate 185 as part of a drug investigation. Although cocaine was discovered in Walker’s body during an autopsy, no drugs or firearms were found in the vehicle or on Walker or the SUV’s other occupants.
Glisson never faced trial and Walker’s widow, Cheryl, settled a civil suit against the city and deputies involved for $450,000 last August.
Hodges was appointed special prosecutor by Attorney General Thurbert Baker after Muscogee County District Attorney Gray Conger recused himself.
Hodges presented the case to a Muscogee County grand jury in November 2004. That grand jury, consisting of 23 people, did not indict Glisson. It would have taken a majority for an indictment.
“When I presented to them, I presented all of the available options from murder all the way down to involuntary manslaughter — and everything in between,” Hodges said. “So, they had the full range.”
Hodges said it was clear Glisson did not follow proper procedure.
“Deputy Glisson should have never had his finger on the trigger,” Hodges said. “If he had done what he was supposed to have done — and that is have his finger on the trigger guard or away from the trigger itself when he pulled Kenneth out of the back of that Yukon — we would not have had a funeral for Kenneth Walker. …
“That’s a tragedy. But is it criminal? And that is the only question that was presented to the Grand Jury of Muscogee County.”
Hodges said he did not ask the grand jury for an indictment.
“You don’t ask for an indictment,” Hodges said. “As a prosecutor, my role is to seek justice. My role is not to convict. My role is not to imprison. My role is to ensure justice is done.”
Does he think justice was done?
“There are those that will say yes and there are those that will say no,” Hodges said. “I will reiterate what I said, Kenneth Walker never should have died. Never. It is a travesty. I have met Cheryl Walker. I have met their child. I have met Emily Walker, the mother. They are wonderful people. I never knew Kenneth — never had the honor of knowing him.
“I have met David Glisson. I have heard from many people that know him that he is a good person, that he made a mistake that night that he still has great pains about. And my observations of him tend to confirm that.
“I do not believe David Glisson woke up that morning and said, ‘I want to go shoot and kill a man.’ I do not believe that he pulled him out of that car thinking he was going to kill a man. I think that everything that happened was a series of bad facts that ultimately ended up in a horrible conclusion.”
Hodges said he will not criticize the grand jury’s conclusion.
“It’s not my job to criticize the grand jury’s decision and I am not going to do it,” he said. “There were people that were calling for me to present it to another grand jury. Well, I am not going to present it to another grand jury with exactly the same evidence, looking for another outcome just as I wouldn’t have dismissed a true bill that that grand jury returned looking for the other outcome. That’s not my job. My job is also not to lick my finger, hold it up to the wind and say, ‘How many people think it ought to go this way? Well, let’s do it that way.’ My job is to present it fairly to the people. And that’s what I did. I did my job.”