My last post was December 30, 2017. A time of innocence. Descriptions of Christmas, photos of my granddaughter doing cartwheels on the beach, the beauty of Nature. I left Florida and headed back to the high desert. But the world as we knew it blew up in February, and I flew back to spend 2018, helping as possible, being present. Now, I’m beginning to write again.
On February 12, 2018, Gregory Dallas Taylor shot my daughter-in-law, Frances T. Cooley, six times in the upper abdomen. In spite of all of the medical expertise and interventions, her wounds were fatal, and she died on February 21, 2018, leaving her husband/my son and their two children, then 17 and 11 years old. Dallas gave a video confession, and there was significant other evidence of his guilt.
My father, Woodrow Melvin, was a Judge; I am a retired Judge. But for this murder case, I was not the judge. I was a family member, one who knew perhaps too much about murders, legal nuances, strategies, and autopsy photos. And I had to trust the system to which my dad had dedicated his entire life, the system in which I exclusively worked – I had to trust the system to provide justice for my son and two grandchildren. It was a very strong case and yet you just can’t KNOW what a jury will do.
The State Attorney’s Office did an outstanding job; law enforcement followed through on essential details. The Bailiff was kind to me. Although there were few familiar faces 18 years after my retirement, it felt like I was back with my people and that I had brought this impossible problem home for resolution. I took comfort in the familiarity of the “dance”.
On Friday, December 14, a jury in Escambia County found Dallas guilty of First Degree Premeditated Murder and Judge Bergosh sentenced him to life in prison without parole. My 18 year old grandson watched justice play out over these months, and he can rest better, knowing that Dallas will never draw a breath outside of prison. In the process he experienced a better way to resolve the most serious of conflicts.
I’m very grateful for all the work that went into bringing closure for my family and for the courage of the jury to make a serious call.
As my dad often said, “The wheels of justice move slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”