A man threatened a judge and his family, demonstrated by both his letter sent to the judge’s wife and a professional counselor reporting his claims. The judge’s decision in the man’s divorce case compelled him to resort to verbal abuse and potential violence. In the letter, he explained that he intended to kill the judge’s wife and their children in retaliation. Further in the letter, the man revoked his threats and warned the wife about others mistreated by the judge’s actions. The judge subsequently notified the sheriff’s department, who then arrested the man.
Afterward, the sheriff’s department searched his house, van, and laptop after obtaining warrants. They discovered a gun in his vehicle with “The Judge” printed on its side and a document with the address and photo of the judge’s house in the man’s laptop.
Cobb County Superior Court convicted the man of three counts of terroristic threats and two counts of terroristic threats with intent to retaliate against a judge. The defendant appealed, suggesting that the trial court overstepped its authority when it permitted the state to introduce the gun found by the sheriff’s department into evidence. He believed that the court also abused its discretion when it allowed the state to ask five questions of the defendant’s expert witness that the defendant felt were not substantiated in the facts of the case. Finally, he claimed that the court permitted the state to induce jurors into putting themselves in the place of the victim, a violation of the golden rule* argument.
The Appeals Court of Georgia examined the case and affirmed the trial court’s decision. The Court held that the introduction of the gun was “inextricably intertwined” with the man’s threats and could be used in defense against the defendant’s argument that he was trying to warn the judge’s wife. The Court showed that the questions posed to the expert witness centered upon the evidence. Lastly, the Court explained that the state didn’t exploit the golden rule because the state asked members how they would feel if they received the letter so that they could determine if they found it threatening.
*In trials, attorneys violate the golden rule by asking jury members to base a settlement or other type of outcome on how they would feel if they were experiencing the same set of circumstances as the victim or personal injury plaintiff. Most judges find that this practice leads to emotional judgment instead of fact-based judgment.