Saturday, retired Madison County Judge Dennis O’Dell (R) spoke to the Tennessee Valley Republican Club about his career as a judge.
O’Dell said that he spent 14 years as a judge. He was first appointed by then Governor Bob Riley (R). I ran for the Court of Criminal Appeals. I lost to Chris McCool. O’Dell spoke on the new laws that have been passed.
The Anti-Road Rage Act says that you can’t stay more than a mile and half in the left lane.
“We are the 49th state to have a gender and age non-discrimination law,” O’Dell said. This was already a federal law; but this gives you a new place to file a lawsuit. You have the choice now of filing it in federal court and now state circuit court.
O’Dell said that the pullover law was expanded to include more emergency vehicles. The law requires you to pullover and yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. They raised the fine from $25 to over a $hundred. The court costs are going to be over $200. “We had a police officer killed last year because somebody did not get over.”
“I never performed a same sex wedding ceremony and I never will, because it is my option,” O’Dell said. “We have Probate judges across the state who stopped doing marriages.”
“The state stopped issuing marriage licenses,” O’Dell said. “I have no problem with them getting rid of marriage licenses.” Marriages still have to be recorded and there is still a fee so there is no lost revenue. “There is a reason you have to have some sort of a record of people being married.”
O’Dell said that he missed Walter Cronkite giving the news without a slant and let you decide.
“What we have got now are networks whose sole purpose is to give you the slant they want to give you,” O’Dell said. “It does not matter whether it is Fox or NBC. What we get now is mostly entertainment and the slant that they want you to have.”
O’Dell said that he supports the Auburn Tigers and is a member of the First Baptist Church of Huntsville. “The hardest think I have had to do on the bench was five months before I retired,” Judge O’Dell said. “I had a young man who pleaded guilty in my court room.”
O’Dell said that 99 percent of the time the attorneys for the accused and the prosecutors have already worked out a deal for the plea. This was a blind plea.
“This was the hardest cast I had to deal with,” O’Dell said. “This young man was 21 years old at the time.” He had too much to drink and went on the highway out in front of the Space and Rocket Center the wrong way and hit a family head on. The mom’s boyfriend and the three-year old died on the scene. The Mother was transported from the scene; but died at the hospital.”
“He had never been in trouble,” O’Dell said. “He was very active in his Church. He was active in the youth group in his Church.
“He made a terrible mistake that affected the lives” of many people, O’Dell said. That idiotic decision impacted his life. “I could have given him life.” “I had this stack of letters. I read through them all twice and some of them three times. Some people wanted me to throw the book at him, give him life. It took almost two hours to get through the sentencing.”
The sister of the woman who was killed asked me to put myself in her shoes and give him life, O’Dell said. I told her if I put myself in your shoes I would want life too, but It would be life but my job as a judge is not to put myself in your shoes.”
“I sentenced him to 30 years,” Judge O’Dell said. “He will be eligible for parole in 15 years, the same as if he had been sentenced to life.”
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly1 with your God,” O’Dell quoted from Micah 6:8.
He felt that he needed to show mercy in this case, to the perpetrator (Carai Cortez).
Chris Horn who chairs the TVRC praised Judge O’Dell: “He wasn’t telling a story he was preaching a sermon. To feel the tears of a man without feeling them is really powerful.”
The TVRC meets monthly on the second Saturday of the month in Madison.