The Alabama Supreme Court met at Judson College on Wednesday, November 6, to hear appeals of two cases that garnered wide-spread attention in Alabama and beyond.
The criminal case hearing by the American Civil Liberties Union was for retrial of Lam Luong, a man convicted of throwing his four children off the Dauphin Island Bridge five years ago; Luong received the death penalty.
The civil case hearing was Alfa Insurance Company’s appeal to overturn an award of over $500,000 for life insurance benefits. The issue was whether or not a policy had been issued.
In the criminal case, ACLU lawyer Cassandra Stubbs told the high court that anger directed at Lam Luong in the community became so pervasive it made it virtually impossible for him to get a fair trial in Mobile.
“There was a huge amount of pretrial prejudice in Mobile, a tidal wave of inflammatory publicity,” said Stubbs, who described the port city as “a community swept up in this case.” In fact, she said, some residents were overheard calling for torture and a public hanging of Luong.
In the civil case, an attorney for Alfa Insurance Company argued that due to errors in the initial application, no insurance policy was actually ever issued. The applicant made a premium payment, but he was killed in an accident one day after his medical exam. Alfa refused to pay his wife, the beneficiary, on the grounds that all the conditions for the policy to be issued had not been satisfied. However, his wife, represented before the Court by Judson graduate Rhonda Pitts Chambers, was eventually awarded a large verdict by a jury.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore opened the morning’s proceedings in the college’s auditorium, which was set up to resemble a courtroom. Chief Justice Moore gave a personal introduction for each of the justices, and Judson President Dr. David Potts followed with welcoming remarks.
President Potts thanked Chief Justice Moore and the other justices for holding the hearing on campus during a year that marks the 175th anniversary of the college. At a luncheon following the court session, Dr. Potts noted that the first woman to be elected to the Alabama Supreme Court was a Judson alumna, Justice Janie Shores.
The hearing at the school drew a big turnout of students from Judson College, Marion Military Institute, and high schools in Marion, Uniontown, and Selma, Alabama, as well as members of the public.
Check out the WAKA (CBS 8) video here.