Work in Sports
'She will play it by the book'
Lewis' judge respected by those who know her
Posted: Sunday February 20, 2000 09:26 PM
ATLANTA (AP) -- Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner is known as a stickler for courtroom procedure who doesn't care for lawyers who take their time making their points.
"She doesn't like lawyers to repeat themselves," said Carla Friend, who has defended two murder suspects in Bonner's courtroom. "That's something lawyers might find hard to do because we like to talk so much."
Ed Garland, the lead lawyer on Lewis' defense team, is known for his expansive style, recently spending two hours in front of television cameras during a hastily-called press conference.
The lawyers for the other two defendants -- Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami, and Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore -- are also known for their verbose style.
Sweeting is represented by Steve Sadow, who briefly gained the media spotlight as the Gold Club's attorney when the FBI raided the Atlanta nude bar looking for mob ties.
Bruce Harvey, known for his ponytail and aggressive style, represents Oakley. Harvey also represented Jonathan Miller, the 15-year-old who was convicted of murder in the death of his 12-year-old neighbor Josh Belluardo that resulted from a fight at a bus stop.
Lewis, Oakley and Sweeting all are charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21, who died following a brawl Jan. 31, soon after the Super Bowl ended.
Lewis is back at his suburban Baltimore home after being freed on $1 million bail last week, while the other two men are still awaiting a bond hearing.
Fulton County assistant district attorney Clint Rucker is prosecuting the case, and was chided several times by Superior Court Judge Doris Downs during Lewis' bond hearing.
Jennifer Coleman, a prosecuting attorney who represented the state in Bonner's court for more than a year, said the judge does not give lawyers a lot of respect.
"You'll be making an argument and she will come out of left field and nip at you and make snide comments," said Coleman, who now is an assistant DA in Gwinnett County.
But Coleman added that Bonner is as tough on defending attorneys as prosecutors.
Bonner's desire to shorten trials may come from her recent record on the bench. According to the Fulton County Daily Report, Bonner had the most unresolved civil cases of all 17 Fulton County Superior Court judges in 1998.
"It seems that I work as hard as I can and get further and further behind," Bonner told the legal paper last summer.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Bonner declined a request to be interviewed.
Bonner's former law firm partner Mary Ann Oakley said that the judge will review attorney's performances with her after trials.
"She doesn't tolerate fools very well," Oakley said.
Fellow Fulton County Superior Court Judge Philip Etheridge said that Bonner will treat the case no differently than the multitude of mundane cases that currently fill her docket.
"She's no nonsense. She's very smart and she will play it by the book," said Etheridge. "The fact that he's a big football player will make absolutely no difference."
As for how the lawyers in the Lewis case should conduct themselves, one lawyer says the direct approach is best.
"My advice would be to be direct with her. If she asks a question, she likes you to be up front," said public defender Elizabeth Archer.