January 01, 2015

The Bar Joins the Battle for Secure Courts: The SecureCourts Initiative

By Crista Hogan and Edward W. (Ned) Madeira Jr.

Friday morning, June 6, 2014, Dennis Marx was expected to appear at the courthouse in Forsyth County, Georgia. He was scheduled to enter a plea on multiple charges, including 10 drug offenses and one for possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony. Mercifully, as it turns out, he didn’t have his day in court. Clothed in body armor and a gas mask, he approached the courthouse in his car, an assault rifle and grenades within reach. A deputy sheriff patrolling the perimeter spotted Marx and was nearly run over before he opened fire. Officers from the nearby jail responded, and Marx returned fire through his car’s windshield, lobbing his ample supply of smoke, tear gas, and pepper spray grenades. When the dust settled and the injuries were assessed, the deputy had two gunshot wounds to the leg and Marx was dead. A sad day at the Forsyth County Courthouse, but it could have been much worse. As Sheriff Duane Piper succinctly noted, “It was very close to a major catastrophe.” Police investigation concluded that Marx had the equipment and most likely the intention of taking hostages and control of the courthouse.

The near catastrophe averted in that Georgia courthouse is a dramatic, but not isolated, incident. Violent incidents are increasing. Two such episodes occurred in the span of three days in February 2013, one in Wilmington, Delaware, and the other in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. Christine Bedford and Olivia Weaver were two moms living hundreds of miles apart, both seeking their court’s assistance in financial support of their children. Both women were shot and killed—Weaver by the father of her child as she was leaving the courthouse after receiving her order of support and Bedford by her ex-father-in-law before she could even enter the courtroom.

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